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The Built Environment and Population Physical Activity: Methods for Mapping the Relevant Laws

Tracy Nau, William Bellew, Billie Giles-Corti, Adrian Bauman, and Ben J. Smith

Background: The development of policies that promote and enable physical activity (PA) is a global health priority. Laws are an important policy instrument that can enable enduring beneficial outcomes for individuals, organizations, and environments through multiple mechanisms. This article presents a systematic process for mapping laws relevant to PA, which can be used to understand the role of laws as a powerful PA policy lever. Methods: Building on methods used in public health law research, we developed a protocol for scientific mapping of laws influencing the built environment for PA in Australia. The MonQcle online legal research platform was used for data coding, analysis, and presentation. Results: We describe the 10 key stages of legal mapping that we applied to examine state and territory laws that influence walking and cycling in Australia. Conclusions: Law is a neglected element of policy research for PA. There is a need for accessible legal data to drive the design, investment, and implementation of legal interventions to improve population PA. Legal mapping is a first step toward evaluation of such laws for PA. This paper provides a practical case study and guidance for the 10 stages in legal mapping of laws that influence the built environment for PA.

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Test-Retest Reliability of Perceptions of the Neighborhood Environment for Physical Activity by Socioeconomic Status

Gavin Turrell, Michele Haynes, Martin O’Flaherty, Nicola Burton, Katrina Giskes, Billie Giles-Corti, and Lee-Ann Wilson

Background:

Further development of high quality measures of neighborhood perceptions will require extensions and refinements to our existing approaches to reliability assessment. This study examined the test-retest reliability of perceptions of the neighborhood environment by socioeconomic status (SES).

Methods:

Test and retest surveys were conducted using a mail survey method with persons aged 40 to 65 years (n = 222, 78.2% response rate). SES was measured using the respondent’s education level and the socioeconomic characteristics of their neighborhood of residence. Reliability was assessed using intraclass correlations (ICC) estimated with random coefficient models.

Results:

Overall, the 27 items had moderate-to-substantial reliability (ICC = 0.41−0.74). Few statistically significant differences were found in ICC between the education groups or neighborhoods, although the ICCs were significantly larger among the low SES for items that measured perceptions of neighborhood greenery, interesting things to see, litter, traffic volume and speed, crime, and rowdy youth on the streets.

Conclusion:

For the majority of the items, poor reliability and subsequent exposure misclassification is no more or less likely among low educated respondents and residents of disadvantaged neighborhoods. Estimates of the association between neighborhood perceptions and physical activity therefore are likely to be similarly precise irrespective of the respondent’s socioeconomic background.

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Associations Between Intrapersonal and Neighborhood Environmental Characteristics and Cycling for Transport and Recreation in Adults: Baseline Results From the RESIDE Study

Sylvia Titze, Billie Giles-Corti, Matthew W. Knuiman, Terri J. Pikora, Anna Timperio, Fiona C. Bull, and Kimberly van Niel

Background:

This study investigated the relationship between individual and neighborhood environmental factors and cycling for transport and for recreation among adults living in Perth, Western Australia.

Methods:

Baseline cross-sectional data from 1813 participants (40.5% male; age range 18 to 78 years) in the RESIDential Environment (RESIDE) project were analyzed. The questionnaire included information on cycling behavior and on cycling-specific individual, social environmental, and neighborhood environmental attributes. Cycling for transport and recreation were dichotomized as whether or not individuals cycled in a usual week.

Results:

Among the individual factors, positive attitudes toward cycling and perceived behavioral control increased the odds of cycling for transport and for recreation. Among the neighborhood environmental attributes, leafy and attractive neighborhoods, access to bicycle/walking paths, the presence of traffic slowing devices and having many 4-way street intersections were positively associated with cycling for transport. Many alternative routes in the local area increased the odds of cycling for recreation.

Conclusions:

Effective strategies for increasing cycling (particularly cycling for transport) may include incorporating supportive environments such as creating leafy and attractive neighborhood surroundings, low traffic speed, and increased street connectivity, in addition to campaigns aimed at strengthening positive attitudes and confidence to cycle.

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The Effect of the Social and Physical Environment on Children’s Independent Mobility to Neighborhood Destinations

Hayley E. Christian, Charlotte D. Klinker, Karen Villanueva, Matthew W. Knuiman, Sarah A. Foster, Stephan R. Zubrick, Mark Divitini, Lisa Wood, and Billie Giles-Corti

Background:

Relationships between context-specific measures of the physical and social environment and children’s independent mobility to neighborhood destination types were examined.

Methods:

Parents in RESIDE’s fourth survey reported whether their child (8–15 years; n = 181) was allowed to travel without an adult to school, friend’s house, park and local shop. Objective physical environment measures were matched to each of these destinations. Social environment measures included neighborhood perceptions and items specific to local independent mobility.

Results:

Independent mobility to local destinations ranged from 30% to 48%. Independent mobility to a local park was less likely as the distance to the closest park (small and large size) increased and less likely with additional school grounds (P < .05). Independent mobility to school was less likely as the distance to the closest large park increased and if the neighborhood was perceived as unsafe (P < .05). Independent mobility to a park or shops decreased if parenting social norms were unsupportive of children’s local independent movement (P < .05).

Conclusions:

Independent mobility appears dependent upon the specific destination being visited and the impact of neighborhood features varies according to the destination examined. Findings highlight the importance of access to different types and sizes of urban green space for children’s independent mobility to parks.

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Results from Australia’s 2014 Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth

Natasha Schranz, Tim Olds, Dylan Cliff, Melanie Davern, Lina Engelen, Billie Giles-Corti, Sjaan Gomersall, Louise Hardy, Kylie Hesketh, Andrew Hills, David Lubans, Doune Macdonald, Rona Macniven, Philip Morgan, Tony Okely, Anne-Maree Parish, Ron Plotnikoff, Trevor Shilton, Leon Straker, Anna Timperio, Stewart Trost, Stewart Vella, Jenny Ziviani, and Grant Tomkinson

Background:

Like many other countries, Australia is facing an inactivity epidemic. The purpose of the Australian 2014 Physical Activity Report Card initiative was to assess the behaviors, settings, and sources of influences and strategies and investments associated with the physical activity levels of Australian children and youth.

Methods:

A Research Working Group (RWG) drawn from experts around Australia collaborated to determine key indicators, assess available datasets, and the metrics which should be used to inform grades for each indicator and factors to consider when weighting the data. The RWG then met to evaluate the synthesized data to assign a grade to each indicator.

Results:

Overall Physical Activity Levels were assigned a grade of D-. Other physical activity behaviors were also graded as less than average (D to D-), while Organized Sport and Physical Activity Participation was assigned a grade of B-. The nation performed better for settings and sources of influence and Government Strategies and Investments (A- to a C). Four incompletes were assigned due to a lack of representative quality data.

Conclusions:

Evidence suggests that physical activity levels of Australian children remain very low, despite moderately supportive social, environmental and regulatory environments. There are clear gaps in the research which need to be filled and consistent data collection methods need to be put into place.