Research Questions

What do community members think the health needs are in Central Columbia School District?

What spaces currently exist for physical activity?

Will the presence of a track and activity center increase sustained, regular, physical activity by members of the community to a degree that physical health – specifically cardiovascular health, fitness, mental health, and a decrease in BMI of the student body – will be observable? 

Which community organizations will influence the possibility of the Wellness Center improving health?

Project Formation

From May to August of 2013, a Bucknell University research team- composed of Carl Milofsky, Hayden Yancey, Wenhui Xiu, Zach Moon, Matt MCanear, Kety Silva and Brandn Green- developed a multiple methods research approach to answer these questions. Harry Mathias, the superintendent of Central Columbia School District, approached the Bucknell team, asking them to undertake a community impact assessment of a Wellness and Athletic Center.

The School District

The research is based upon first understanding the vision Superintendent Mathias has for the social and community role the school can play in the geographically bounded area of the district. In contemporary studies of rural society in America, schools are recognized as being central institutions in rural communities. The CCCSD is more than simply rural as it does not contain a population center where social services and community life can be centered. This project being undertaken by the district, which contains a broad understanding of community health, is fundamentally an attempt to build community in the district. Our research is oriented around understanding how this process happens, if community members understood the nature of the remodeling and expansion efforts, how and if community attachment corresponds to physical activity, and if this in turn may generate positive physical, emotional, and behavioral health outcomes.

Research Findings

The research team found that community members questioned the impact of the project, had consistently undefined views on health, shared theories of health promotion, and that policies and programs of institutions throughout the district will likely have a larger influence on increased physical activity of residents than will individual motivation to exercise.

Looking Forward

This research also is part of a long-term initiative to carry out comparative ethnographies and multi-method studies of eight to twelve communities and rural places in the Susquehanna Valley area.  The team seeks to develop methodologies for doing this kind of research and the present project offers the most comprehensive opportunity we have had so far to do a complete community study. Measuring rural health goes beyond biometrics to include community variables like the density and character of local organizational programs, associational activity, and the symbolic sense of community shared by residents (Yousefian et al 2010).

The Central Columbia School District Health Impact Assessment Report:

Bucknell University Community Research Group, 2013

Carl Milofsky, Hayden Yancey, Wenhui Xiu, Zach Moon, Matt MCanear, Kety Silva and Brandn Green

Central Columbia School District — Health Impact Assessment Report