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Ann Forsyth, Kathryn H. Schmitz, Michael Oakes, Jason Zimmerman and Joel Koepp

Background:

Interdisciplinary research regarding how the built environment influences physical activity has recently increased. Many research projects conducted jointly by public health and environmental design professionals are using geographic information systems (GIS) to objectively measure the built environment. Numerous methodological issues remain, however, and environmental measurements have not been well documented with accepted, common definitions of valid, reliable variables.

Methods:

This paper proposes how to create and document standardized definitions for measures of environmental variables using GIS with the ultimate goal of developing reliable, valid measures. Inherent problems with software and data that hamper environmental measurement can be offset by protocols combining clear conceptual bases with detailed measurement instructions.

Results:

Examples demonstrate how protocols can more clearly translate concepts into specific measurement.

Conclusions:

This paper provides a model for developing protocols to allow high quality comparative research on relationships between the environment and physical activity and other outcomes of public health interest.

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Mika R. Moran, Perla Werner, Israel Doron, Neta HaGani, Yael Benvenisti, Abby C. King, Sandra J. Winter, Jylana L. Sheats, Randi Garber, Hadas Motro and Shlomit Ergon

Positioning System (GPS) tracking routes. The GPS routes were then coded into a geographic information system (GIS) in order to calculate environmental measures (aim 1) and the DT’s outcomes went through qualitative content analysis (aim 2). The third study aim was addressed by converting the content analysis

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Russell Jago, Tom Baranowski and Michael Harris

Background:

It is not clear if relationships between GIS obtained environmental features and physical activity differ according to the method used to code GIS data.

Methods:

Physical activity levels of 210 Boy Scouts were measured by accelerometer. Numbers of parks, trails, gymnasia, bus stops, grocery stores, and restaurants within the commonly used 400 m and 1-mile (1609.3 m) buffers of subject residences and distance to the nearest feature were calculated. Residential density, connectivity, and crime rate were calculated. Regression models with minutes of sedentary, light, or moderate-to-vigorous activity as dependent variables and environmental and demographics as independent variables were run with backward deletion of environmental variables.

Results:

Park, crime, and gym variables were associated with physical activity, but relationships varied according to whether a 400 m, 1 mile, or nearest criteria was used.

Conclusion:

Environmental variables were associated with the physical activity of adolescent males, but the association was method dependent.

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Eboneé N. Butler, Anita M.H. Ambs, Jill Reedy and Heather R. Bowles

Background:

Examining relationships between features of the built environment and physical activity is achievable with geographic information systems technology (GIS). The purpose of this paper is to review the literature to identify GIS measures that can be considered for inclusion in national public health surveillance efforts. In the absence of a universally agreed upon framework that integrates physical, social, and cultural aspects of the environment, we used a multidimensional model of access to synthesize the literature.

Methods:

We identified 29 studies published between 2005 and 2009 with physical activity outcomes that included 1 or more built environment variables measured using GIS. We sorted built environment measures into 5 dimensions of access: accessibility, availability, accommodation, affordability, and acceptability.

Results:

Geospatial land-use data, street network data, environmental audits, and commercial databases can be used to measure the availability, accessibility, and accommodation dimensions of access. Affordability and acceptability measures rely on census and self-report data.

Conclusions:

GIS measures have been included in studies investigating the built environment and physical activity, although few have examined more than 1 construct of access. Systematic identification and collection of relevant GIS measures can facilitate collaboration and accelerate the advancement of research on the built environment and physical activity.

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William Hansen, Ned Kalapasev, Amy Gillespie, Mary Singler and Marsha Ball

Background:

Rising obesity rates in the United States has spurred efforts by health advocates to encourage more active lifestyles including walking. Ensuring the availability, quality, and safety of pedestrian walkways has become an important issue for government at all levels.

Methods:

Pedestrian paths in Campbell County Kentucky were evaluated using a ranking criteria developed by the Walking and Bicycling Suitability Assessment (WABSA) project at the University of North Carolina School of Public Health. A pedestrian path Geographic Information System (GIS) data-layer was created, and mobile GIS units were used to assess the sidewalk segments using the ranking. Data from sidewalk surveys were compared with Census 2000 block group information on age of housing, population density, and household transportation characteristics to examine the correlation between these factors and sidewalk presence and quality. The analysis explored the use of census data to predict walkability factors and looked for trends in quality and availability of pedestrian paths over time.

Results:

Results showed higher overall scores for older urban areas adjacent to the Ohio River and Cincinnati. Housing built in the 1970s and 1980s showed the lowest scores, while more recent housing showed improvement over earlier decades. Age of housing was determined to be a useful predictor, while economic and population density attributes showed no correlation with walkability factors.

Conclusion:

Census housing age data are the most useful predictor of walkability demonstrating clear trends over time. The study shows improvements in walkways availability over the past few decades; however, infrastructure improvements are needed to provide more extensive pedestrian walkways and linkages between existing walkways in Campbell County.

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Melody Oliver, Hannah Badland, Suzanne Mavoa, Mitch J. Duncan and Scott Duncan

Background:

Global positioning systems (GPS), geographic information systems (GIS), and accelerometers are powerful tools to explain activity within a built environment, yet little integration of these tools has taken place. This study aimed to assess the feasibility of combining GPS, GIS, and accelerometry to understand transport-related physical activity (TPA) in adults.

Methods:

Forty adults wore an accelerometer and portable GPS unit over 7 consecutive days and completed a demographics questionnaire and 7-day travel log. Accelerometer and GPS data were extracted for commutes to/from workplace and integrated into a GIS database. GIS maps were generated to visually explore physical activity intensity, GPS speeds and routes traveled.

Results:

GPS, accelerometer, and survey data were collected for 37 participants. Loss of GPS data was substantial due to a range of methodological issues, such as low battery life, signal drop out, and participant noncompliance. Nonetheless, greater travel distances and significantly higher speeds were observed for motorized trips when compared with TPA.

Conclusions:

Pragmatic issues of using GPS monitoring to understand TPA behaviors and methodological recommendations for future research were identified. Although methodologically challenging, the combination of GPS monitoring, accelerometry and GIS technologies holds promise for understanding TPA within the built environment.

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Kirsi E. Keskinen, Merja Rantakokko, Kimmo Suomi, Taina Rantanen and Erja Portegijs

system (GIS) software ArcMap (version 10.3; Esri, Redlands, CA). Briefly, the study participants were 75–90 years old and lived in two Finnish neighboring municipalities, Jyväskylä and Muurame, both located within the same urban structure. In the year 2012, Muurame had about 9,500 inhabitants and

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Levi Frehlich, Christine Friedenreich, Alberto Nettel-Aguirre, Jasper Schipperijn and Gavin R. McCormack

accelerometer data have been used to assess physical activity in the workplace, commute routes, and home neighborhoods ( Krenn, Titze, Oja, Jones, & Ogilvie, 2011 ). GPS and accelerometer linked data have also been overlaid with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to research built environment characteristics

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Jasper Schipperijn, Mathias Ried-Larsen, Merete S. Nielsen, Anneli F. Holdt, Anders Grøntved, Annette K. Ersbøll and Peter L. Kristensen

Background:

This longitudinal study aimed to examine if a Movability Index (MI), based on objectively measured built environment characteristics, was a determinant for objectively measured physical activity (PA) among young adults.

Methods:

Data collected from 177 persons participating in the Danish part of the European Youth Hearth Study (EYHS) was used to examine the effect of the built environment on PA. A MI was developed using objectively measured built environment characteristics, and included residential density, recreational facilities, daily destinations and street connectivity.

Results:

Results showed a positive cross-sectional association between MI and PA. PA decreased from baseline to follow-up. MI increased, primarily due to participants relocating to larger cities. An increase in MI from baseline to follow-up was associated with a reduced decrease in PA for females.

Conclusions:

Our findings suggest that the built environment is a determinant for PA, especially for females. The found gender differences might suggest the need to develop gender specific environmental indices in future studies. The validity of the measures can be further improved by creating domain specific PA measures as well as domain specific environmental indices and this can potentially reveal more specific built environment determinants for PA.

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Yu-Tzu Wu, Natalia R. Jones, Esther M.F. van Sluijs, Simon J. Griffin, Nicholas J. Wareham and Andrew P. Jones

We examine the relative importance of both objective and perceived environmental features for physical activity in older English adults. Self-reported physical activity levels of 8,281 older adults were used to compute volumes of outdoor recreational and commuting activity. Perceptions of neighborhood environment supportiveness were drawn from a questionnaire survey and a geographical information system was used to derive objective measures. Negative binominal regression models were fitted to examine associations. Perceptions of neighborhood environment were more associated with outdoor recreational activity (over 10% change per standard deviation) than objective measures (5–8% change). Commuting activity was associated with several objective measures (up to 16% change). We identified different environmental determinants of recreational and commuting activity in older adults. Perceptions of environmental supportiveness for recreational activity appear more important than actual neighborhood characteristics. Understanding how older people perceive neighborhoods might be key to encouraging outdoor recreational activity.