by aglowka October 16, 2018 comments

Critical research will identify landscape of youth access to physical activity in King County


October 17, 2018 – Seattle, WA – The University of Washington (UW) and King County Parks today announced a unique collaboration with the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program, focused on improving youth access to and engagement in physical activity, sport, and outdoor recreation in King County. Joining UW, King County Parks and the Aspen Institute is a consortium of regional organizations interested in improving community health through physical activity, including the Seattle Mariners, the YMCA of Greater Seattle, Kaiser Permanente, evo, Seattle Children’s Hospital and the Bezos Family Foundation.

The first step of the consortium is a “State of Play,” a landscape analysis of youth access to sport, play, physical activity and outdoor recreation in Seattle-King County. The resulting State of Play report will be completed in fall 2019 and will inform policies, programs, and urban design that can be used throughout King County to improve equitable access to physical activity.

A State of Play is an essential component of the national initiative Project Play, launched in 2013 by the Aspen Institute to develop, apply, and share knowledge that helps stakeholders build healthy communities through sports. State of Play reports, which have also been conducted in regions and cities including Southeast Michigan, Baltimore, and Harlem, take measure of the landscape of youth physical activity to inform stakeholders and drive access to quality sport.

In King County, differential health outcomes are striking: Hispanic and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander youth, as well as those who live in the southern part of the county, are almost twice as likely to be overweight compared to the King County average. Additionally, Seattle’s population boom has put pressure on the region’s infrastructure, including open spaces for play and sport, causing shortages and inequitable access to neighborhood spaces. Further, according to statistics gathered from the Washington Healthy Youth Survey, only 29 percent of sixth-grade youth in King County get the recommended daily levels of physical activity, and this drops to 18 percent by 12th grade. Only 22 percent of elementary schools in Washington state report meeting the required amount of time for physical education.

“Physical activity is an often-overlooked component of positive health and educational outcomes for youth,” said Dr. Julie McCleery, Research Associate at the UW’s Center for Leadership in Athletics and Principal Investigator for Seattle-King County’s State of Play research. “National trends show that income is now an indicator of whether or not children are physically active and play sports, and in King County, we know that both race- and place-based health and access disparities are accelerating. With that said, the voices of those youth and families who are the most disenfranchised from physical activity and recreation will be central to our research and analysis.”

John Stanton, Chairman and Managing Partner of the Seattle Mariners, explained, “The Seattle Mariners believe that all young people should have the opportunity to play baseball, softball and other sports regardless of the barriers they may face. Unfortunately, that is not the case today. We are enthusiastic to play a role in better understanding barriers to access and developing strategies to expand youth access to sports and recreation."

King County Parks plans to apply the State of Play report to inform strategic upstream investments of the county’s Youth Sports Grants, which support fit and healthy communities by investing in programs and capital projects that increase youth access to physical activity. 

“King County is once again partnering with the University of Washington on an initiative to improve the quality of life in our region,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “We are leading a united effort with the public and private sectors to make it possible for more young people to be physically active, which contributes to their health and well-being.”





The Aspen Institute is a nonpartisan forum for values-based leadership and the exchange of ideas. Based in Washington, DC, the Institute also has campuses in Aspen, CO, and on the Wye River in eastern Maryland, and maintains offices in New York City and several other cities. The mission of the Sports & Society Program is to convene leaders, facilitate dialogue and inspire solutions that help sports serve the public interest. The program provides a venue for thought leadership where knowledge can be deepened and breakthrough strategies explored on a range of issues. The flagship initiative of the Sports & Society Program, Project Play develops, applies and shares knowledge that helps stakeholders build healthy communities through sports.


At the University of Washington, we believe that what you care about can change the world. We’re more than one of the world’s leading public research universities: We’re a community of students and faculty united by a drive to serve the public good. From educating future leaders and making innovation work for all of us, to research breakthroughs and creative works that save and change lives, we’re committed to helping people and communities achieve their full potential. With multiple campuses, a world-class academic medical center, Pac-12 athletics and extensive continuing education programs, the opportunities here are limitless. Learn how you can Be Boundless for Washington and the world at


King County Parks’ mission is to steward, enhance, and acquire parks to inspire healthy communities.  The Youth Sports Grants support fit and healthy communities by investing in programs and capital projects that increase youth access to physical activity. The goal of the funding is to reduce barriers to accessing a range of high quality physical activity programs especially for under-resourced communities including low-income youth, youth of color, and limited English speaking youth. 



Doug Williams

Media Relations, King County DNRP