Wait, what? PAPREN turns 20!
Home/Wait, what? PAPREN turns 20!
It’s not clear who will be more surprised by this fact, longtime network members or new members. The Physical Activity Policy Research and Evaluatio ...

It’s not clear who will be more surprised by this fact, longtime network members or new members. The Physical Activity Policy Research and Evaluation Network (PAPREN) is the current version of a research network that celebrates 20 years in 2024! On June 26, we will host a special anniversary Grand Rounds. Panelists from all generations of the network will reflect on their experiences and look ahead to the future. You can scroll to the bottom for quotes from some of the panelists.

To get ready for the celebration, we thought it was a good idea to remind longtime members and educate new ones on the evolution of our wonderful collaborative space.

How has the network been funded?

CDC sponsors several research networks, including PAPREN, using the Special Interest Project (SIP) funding mechanism. In order to apply for a SIP, an institution must first be a Prevention Research Center, or PRC. There are PRCs across the U.S.

Why create a research network focused on physical activity policy?

It may seem hard to believe, but when the network first started emphasis was still on individual behavior. Policy interventions had only recently been recommended for physical activity, to follow the path set in tobacco and other areas. Little research existed. A physical activity policy research framework was developed that outlined opportunities by sector, scale, and policy dimension. This framework shaped the first version of the network and has continued to inform subsequent ones.

What has the network looked like over the years?

PAPRN (2004-2009, 2009-2014)

Washington University in St. Louis was the Coordinating Center and five Collaborating Centers were also funded. Unfunded public health researchers also collaborated on projects. Working groups formed around specific projects that were selected collaboratively. Research focused on identification of physical activity policies and determinants and on multiple sectors (e.g. health, transportation, parks/public spaces, worksite, school). A project logo and website were developed. By the end of PAPRN, there were approximately 100 members. You can read more about the network here.

PAPRN+ (2014-2019)

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Active Living Research at University of California, San Diego were jointly funded as the Coordinating Center. Five Collaborating Centers were funded, each with its own project. Innovations included thematic working groups to conduct collaborative projects, regular network-wide calls, an interdisciplinary advisory group, recruitment among the practice community (health departments, nonprofits from sectors like parks and recreation and transportation, government agencies), and use of communications platforms (listserv, social media) to communicate with network members. Research focus was similar to PAPRN, but the network increased emphasis on translation from research to practice. During PAPRN+, the network grew to over 200 members. You can read more about the network here.

PAPREN (2019-2024)

The UMass Chan Medical School and University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health are jointly funded as the Coordinating Center. There are no funded Collaborating Centers, but established leads of our six topical work groups have led their respective groups throughout the whole cycle, providing space for co-learning and conducting small projects. The strong productivity and fellowship of the work groups, combined with regular events such as the Grand Rounds speaker series and communications including a versatile website, branded content, monthly newsletter, blog posts, and social media have helped increase membership to almost 1000 members! Excitingly, more than half the members work at organizations outside academia, showing high interest in translating research to practice. PAPREN research emphasizes built environment / community design, with work in the school and worksite sectors as well. As reflected in the name change, evaluation research and implementation research have received special attention in this cycle. In addition to the work group research projects, UIC leads a funded Coordinating Center project on zoning and physical activity that builds from their prior research.

What has the network achieved?

PAPREN and our predecessor networks have been extraordinarily productive. An analysis of the first two cycles found PAPRN produced 30 peer-reviewed articles and 56 presentations.

In just one cycle, PAPREN has produced 23 manuscripts, 35 presentations, and 10 research briefs and infographics. We conducted 22 unique projects and featured over 125 speaker presentations. We also funded 19 early career fellows who supported the work groups. In short, we have rocked!

What is ahead for the future?

The value of a network lies in providing the infrastructure for members to make and build connections. PAPREN will continue to do this work along with helping to build physical activity policy evidence. But the true power of a network becomes clear when it matures to a point where members leverage those connections to start new collaborations, develop new projects, find jobs, and keep on learning. Increasingly, this is what we see happening with PAPREN. We’re proud and excited to keep fostering this energy.

Register for 20 Years of PAPREN Celebration

Register for 20 year celebration


Tom Schmid (CDC, retired)

Amy Eyler, Washington University in St. Louis

Rodney Lyn, Georgia State University

Jeanette Gustat, Tulane University

Keshia Pollack Porter, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Renée Umstattd Meyer, Baylor University

Natalicio Serrano, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

A few words from selected panelists…

Tom Schmid, Program Officer (retired), CDC

As one of the proud parents of PAPREN, I am very excited to follow it as it continues for the next several generations.

Amy Eyler, PI (2005-2014), Washington University in St. Louis

PAPRN took physical activity policy research to the next level— as did each subsequent network. Today more people than ever before know how to create and implement evidence-based policies to support physical activity.  That is a network legacy.

Keshia Pollack Porter, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, co-PI (2014-2019)

PAPRN+ built on the success of the initial PAPRN and amplified emphasis on translation and dissemination, working across sectors, and impact. The work that it generated has strengthened communities, partnerships, policies, and practice.

Jeanette Gustat, Tulane University

I’ve appreciated the opportunities to connect with like-minded researchers and to interact with practitioners and policy-makers.  No where else have I found such a group all focused on making our communities healthier through opportunities for physical activity.  I truly appreciate how involvement in PAPREN has benefited my career.  Thank you PAPREN!

Rodney Lyn, Georgia State University

PAPREN has been invaluable for advancing physical activity policy research. It has been instrumental in growing the community of scholars collaborating to grow the field, and I feel privileged to have been engaged in and supported by the network.  PAPREN helped to enhance the reach and impact of my work. Our field is stronger today for its past and ongoing contributions.

Renée Umstattd Meyer, Baylor University

I joined the originally funded PAPRN as an affiliate member to help equip myself to address the growing need I was experiencing to understand and address policy as it pertained to active living.  PAPRN and the generations that have followed (PAPRN+ and PAPREN), provided me with the foundation I needed then and continue to support my growth as a scholar now.  PAPRN, PAPRN+, and PAPREN have provided a crucial place for connection and mutual learning in this field, stimulating innovation and ensuring that evidence exists and is disseminated to inform active living policy decisions.  During PAPRN, I was supported and encouraged to co-lead a rural-focused workgroup which began in 2013 and subsequently evolved into a standing workgroup within PAPRN+ and PAPREN that continues to serve as a cornerstone where established and emerging researchers, practitioners, and policy makers/leaders from across the U.S. come together to advance rural-focused active living policy and environment-focused research, practice, and advocacy.  My own research and impact has been strengthened through my involvement in PAPREN and the Rural Active Living Workgroup, and my life has also been personally enriched through the collaborations and friendships that developed across the past 10+ years. I am excited to remain part of PAPRN/PAPRN+/PAPREN, leading the advancement of this field into the next 20+ years! I am extremely grateful for the strong leadership of PAPRN/PAPRN+/PAPREN across the past 20 years through Amy Eyler, Keshia Pollack Porter, and Stephenie Lemon, Jamie Chriqui, and Karin Valentine Goins – thank you each!

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