An Environmental Assessment Instrument for Rural Communities: Development of the Rural Active Living Assessment (RALA) Tools

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



population health, MRHRC, rural, RALA, policy, Transportation, Pedestrian Facilities, Bike Facilities, Parks & Recreation, Parks, Playgrounds, Recreation Programs, Schools, Safe Routes to School, Walking and Biking to School, Communities, Rural, Zoning and Mixed Land Use, Social and Cultural Environment


This rural audit tool is intended to be used by community members, policymakers, program staff, planners and researchers to assess the degree to which the physical, program, and policy environments of a rural community support active living. In prior work we found it necessary to adapt and simplify urban instruments for small rural communities where many elements of these instruments are not relevant, but where other features of the environment are applicable. Combining findings from three previously funded rural ALR grantees (i.e. University of Southern Maine, Tufts University, and University of Mississippi/University of Alabama) we developed, tested, and refined a rural-specific audit instrument.

Our rural-specific instrument will provide a necessary foundation for future active living studies and interventions as they create an evidence base for increasing physical activity in rural areas. The success of any interventions would be increased by correlational studies to determine what physical features, design features, programs and policies in rural environments are correlated with increased levels of physical activity. This instrument contributes to these future studies by providing a tool with which to capture salient features of the rural environment that can be tested by correlation analyses.


This study was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Additional support provided by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, HRSA and Save the Children, US Programs.

Funding Organization

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation