Exploring Walking Path Quality as a Factor for Urban Elementary School Children’s Active Transport to School

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Background:

Path quality has not been well studied as a correlate of active transport to school. We hypothesize that for urban-dwelling children the environment between home and school is at least as important as the environment immediately surrounding their homes and/or schools when exploring walking to school behavior.

Methods:

Tools from spatial statistics and geographic information systems (GIS) were applied to an assessment of street blocks to create a walking path quality measure based on physical and social disorder (termed “incivilities”) for each child. Path quality was included in a multivariate regression analysis of walking to school status for a sample of 362 children.

Results:

The odds of walking to school for path quality was 0.88 (95% CI: 0.72−1.07), which although not statistically significant is in the direction supporting our hypothesis. The odds of walking to school for home street block incivility suggests the counter intuitive effect (OR = 1.10, 95% CI: 1.08−1.19).

Conclusions:

Results suggest that urban children living in communities characterized by higher incivilities are more likely to walk to school, potentially placing them at risk for adverse health outcomes because of exposure to high incivility areas along their route. Results also support the importance of including path quality when exploring the influence of the environment on walking to school behavior.

Curriero is with the Dept of Environmental Health Sciences, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD. James is with the Dept of Surgery, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Shields is with the Dept of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD. Roman is with the Dept of Criminal Justice, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA. Holden is with the Dept of Mental Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD. Cooley-Strickland is with the Dept of NPI-Semel Institute of Neuroscience, University of California-Los Angeles. Pollack is with the Dept of Health Policy and Management, Center for Injury Research and Policy, Center for Health Disparities Solutions, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD.