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Hyung Jin Kim and Chanam Lee

Background:

A public elementary school has traditionally functioned as an important center of a neighborhood, but this role has diminished with sprawling urban developments. Despite the large number of studies of children’s walking to/from school (WTS), the school’s location in relation to the larger neighborhood context has not been fully explored. This study is to examine the relationship between school’s spatial centrality and children’s WTS in urban, suburban and rural settings.

Methods:

this study used school travel tally (11,721 students), environment audit, GIS and census data from 71 elementary school/neighborhoods in Texas, and employed the closeness centrality index to estimate a school’s spatial centrality. Data were collected from 2009–2012.

Results:

After controlling for neighborhood characteristics, it was found that more centrally located schools are likely to have higher proportions of WTS in the neighborhoods. And, among urban, suburban and rural settings, urban schools were the most and rural schools were the least likely to be centrally-located in the neighborhoods.

Conclusions:

The findings offer implications on school and community planning policies that can help promote WTS. Spatial centrality measures can be effective tools to identify environmental factors in complex urban networks related to human behaviors and community-based activities.

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Chanam Lee and Anne Vernez Moudon

Background:

Walking is a popular recreational activity and a feasible travel mode. Associations exist between walking and the built environment, but knowledge is lacking about specific environmental conditions associated with different purposes of walking.

Methods:

This cross-sectional study used a survey of 438 adults and objective environmental measures. Multinomial logit models estimated the odds of walking for recreation or transportation purposes.

Results:

Utilitarian destinations were positively associated with transportation walking, but recreational destinations were not associated with any walking. Residential density was correlated with both purposes of walking, and sidewalks with recreation walking only. Hills were positively associated with recreation walking and negatively with transportation walking.

Conclusions:

Physical environment contributed significantly to explain the probability of walking. However, different attributes of environment were related to transportation versus recreation walking, suggesting the need for multiple and targeted interventions to effectively support walking.

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Mindy Fullilove, Chanam Lee and James F. Sallis

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Xuemei Zhu, Chanam Lee, Oi-Man Kwok and James W. Varni

Background:

A growing number of studies have examined correlates of walking-to/from-school behaviors. However, the potential differences across neighborhoods have been understudied. To address this knowledge gap, this study compared 4 elementary school settings (low-income inner-city; mid- to low-income, urban with and without freeway in attendance area; and high-income suburban) in Austin, Texas.

Methods:

Parental surveys (n = 680, response rate = 25%) were analyzed using binary logistic regressions to identify correlates of walking to/from school for each setting. Five focus groups were conducted with 15 parents and analyzed using content analysis to supplement the survey results.

Results:

Parents’ personal barrier was the only consistently significant variable across 4 settings (OR = 0.113−0.463, P < .05). Parental education showed contrasting results between the suburban setting (OR = 3.895, P < .01) and the urban setting with freeway presence (OR = 0.568, P < .05). Personal attitude and walking habit had lower explanatory power in lower-income settings than in the higher-income site. But sociodemographic, physical environment, and safety conditions had greater explanatory power in lower-income settings. Freeway barrier was significant in the inner-city setting (OR = 0.029, P < .05) and the urban setting with freeway presence (OR = 0.142, P < .05).

Conclusions:

Significant differences in correlates of walking-to/from-school behaviors were found across the 4 elementary school settings, suggesting the importance of context-sensitive approaches in future research and practice.

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Kathleen Meghan Wieters, Jun-Hyun Kim and Chanam Lee

Background:

Responding to the growing interest in the environmental influences on physical activity, and the concerns about the limitations of self-report data, this study evaluates Global Positioning System (GPS) units for measuring outdoor physical activity.

Methods:

Four GPS models were selected to test their accuracy related to adherence to an actual route walked, variations based on position of unit on user’s body, and variations against a known geodetic point. A qualitative assessment was performed using the following criteria: a) battery life, b) memory capacity, c) initial satellite signal acquisition time, d) ease of data transfer to other programs, e) wearability, f) ease of operation, g) suitability for specific study populations, and h) price.

Results and Conclusions:

The Garmin Forerunner provided the most accurate data for data points collected along a known route. Comparisons based on different body placement of units showed some variations. GlobalSat reported battery life of 24 hours, compared with 9–15 hours for the other units. The static test using ANOVA showed that the Garmin Foretrex’s data points compared with a geodetic point was significantly more accurate than the other 3 models. GPS units appear promising as a tool to capture objective data on outdoor physical activities.

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Jun-Hyun Kim, Chanam Lee, Norma E. Olvera and Christopher D. Ellis

Background:

Childhood obesity and its comorbidities have become major public health challenges in the US. While previous studies have investigated the roles of land uses and transportation infrastructure on obesity, limited research has examined the influence of landscape spatial patterns. The purpose of this study was to examine the association between landscape spatial patterns and obesity in Hispanic children.

Methods:

Participants included 61 fourth- and fifth-grade Hispanic children from inner-city neighborhoods in Houston, TX. BMI z-scores were computed based on objectively-measured height and weight from each child. Parental and child surveys provided sociodemographic and physical activity data. Landscape indices were used to measure the quality of landscape spatial patterns surrounding each child’s home by utilizing Geographic Information Systems and remote sensing analyses using aerial photo images.

Results:

After controlling for sociodemographic factors, in the half-mile airline buffer, more tree patches and well-connected landscape patterns were negatively correlated with their BMI z-scores. Furthermore, larger sizes of urban forests and tree patches were negatively associated with children’s BMI z-scores in the half-mile network buffer assessment.

Conclusions:

This study suggests that urban greenery requires further attention in studies aimed at identifying environmental features that reduce childhood obesity.

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Chanam Lee, Hyung Jin Kim, Diane M. Dowdy, Deanna M. Hoelscher and Marcia G. Ory

Background:

Several environmental audit instruments have been developed for assessing streets, parks and trails, but none for schools. This paper introduces a school audit tool that includes 3 subcomponents: 1) street audit, 2) school site audit, and 3) map audit. It presents the conceptual basis and the development process of this instrument, and the methods and results of the reliability assessments.

Methods:

Reliability tests were conducted by 2 trained auditors on 12 study schools (high-low income and urban-suburban-rural settings). Kappa statistics (categorical, factual items) and ICC (Likert-scale, perceptual items) were used to assess a) interrater, b) test-retest, and c) peak vs. off-peak hour reliability tests.

Results:

For the interrater reliability test, the average Kappa was 0.839 and the ICC was 0.602. For the test-retest reliability, the average Kappa was 0.903 and the ICC was 0.774. The peak–off peak reliability was 0.801. Rural schools showed the most consistent results in the peak–off peak and test-retest assessments. For interrater tests, urban schools showed the highest ICC, and rural schools showed the highest Kappa.

Conclusions:

Most items achieved moderate to high levels of reliabilities in all study schools. With proper training, this audit can be used to assess school environments reliably for research, outreach, and policy-support purposes.

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Norma Olvera, Dennis W. Smith, Chanam Lee, Jian Liu, Jay Lee, Jun-Hyun Kim and Stephanie F. Kellam

Background:

Parents represent a key ecological component in influencing their child’s physical activity. The aim of this exploratory study was to assess the relationship between maternal acculturation and physical activity in Hispanic children.

Methods:

102 Hispanic mothers (mean age 36.2 yrs; +SD 7.3 yrs) and their children (mean age 10.0 yrs, +SD 0.8 yrs) participated. Most of the mothers (74%) were foreign-born, with 62% classified as low acculturated and 38% high acculturated. Demographic, acculturation, and anthropometric measures were completed by mothers and children. Physical activity was measured using accelerometers. Relationships between maternal acculturation and demographic variables and children’s physical activity were examined using chi-square, Analysis of Variance, and simple regression.

Results:

Children had higher physical activity levels than their mothers (t(49) = −7.87, P < .0001). Significant correlations between maternal and child’s physical activity levels were observed in moderate (r 2 = 0.13, P = .001), vigorous (r 2 = 0.08, P = .05), and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (r 2 = 0.17, P = .002). Low acculturated mothers were more likely to have active children compared with high acculturated mothers. Maternal BMI and other demographic characteristics were not significantly associated with child’s physical activity.

Conclusions:

Findings from this study revealed an association among maternal acculturation, role modeling, and child’s physical activity.

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Anne Vernez Moudon, Chanam Lee, Allen D. Cheadle, Cheza Garvin, Donna Johnson, Thomas L. Schmid, Robert D. Weathers and Lin Lin

Background:

The concept of walkable neighborhoods is increasingly important in physical activity research and intervention. However, limited theoretical understanding and measurable definitions remain a challenge.

Methods:

This paper reviews theories defining neighborhoods and offers an empirical approach to identify measurable attributes and thresholds of walkable neighborhoods. Bivariate and multivariate analyses are used for self-reported socio-demographic background, neighborhood walking behavior and perception, and objective measures of environments.

Results:

Environmental attributes positively associated with walking sufficiently to meet health recommendations included higher residential density and smaller street-blocks around home, and shorter distances to food and daily retail facilities from home. Threshold distances for eating/drinking establishments and grocery stores were 860 and 1445 feet.

Conclusions:

Results questioned theoretical constructs of neighborhoods centered on recreation and educational uses. They pointed to finer mixes of uses than those characterizing suburban neighborhoods, and small spatial units of analysis and intervention to capture and promote neighborhood walkability.

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Meliha Salahuddin, Eileen Nehme, Nalini Ranjit, Young-Jae Kim, Abiodun O. Oluyomi, Diane Dowdy, Chanam Lee, Marcia Ory and Deanna M. Hoelscher

Background:

The role of parents’ perceptions of the neighborhood environment in determining children’s active commuting to and from school (ACS) is understudied. This study examined the association between parents’ perceptions of neighborhood social cohesion, perceived neighborhood safety, and their children’s ACS.

Methods:

This cross-sectional analysis (n = 857 from 81 elementary schools in Texas) examined baseline data from the Texas Childhood Obesity Prevention Policy Evaluation project. Participants had a mean age of 9.6 (0.6) years, and 50% were girls. Mixed effects logistic regression models were used to assess gender-stratified associations between parent’s perceived social cohesion and children’s ACS and their perception of neighborhood safety.

Results:

A positive significant association was observed between levels of perceived social cohesion and children’s ACS for boys (P = 0.047); however, an inverse significant association was observed among girls (P = 0.033). Parents of boys living in neighborhoods with medium to high social cohesion were more likely to perceive their neighborhood as safe compared with parents living in neighborhoods with low social cohesion, though nonsignificant. Perceived neighborhood safety for walking and biking was associated with greater ACS among boys (P = 0.003).

Conclusions:

Our study findings indicate that both social and physical environments are important factors in determining ACS among boys.