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Standards for Environmental Measurement Using GIS: Toward a Protocol for Protocols

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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Exploring the Objective and Perceived Environmental Attributes of Older Adults’ Neighborhood Walking Routes: A Mixed Methods Analysis

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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Relationships Between GIS Environmental Features and Adolescent Male Physical Activity: GIS Coding Differences

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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Identifying GIS Measures of the Physical Activity Built Environment Through a Review of the Literature

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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Combining GPS, GIS, and Accelerometry: Methodological Issues in the Assessment of Location and Intensity of Travel Behaviors

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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Development of a Pedestrian Walkability Database of Northern Kentucky Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

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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Environmental Features Associated With Older Adults’ Physical Activity in Different Types of Urban Neighborhoods

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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Quantifying Area-Level Physical Activity Offerings in Social Context: A Novel Concept That Goes Beyond Walkability and Access to Open Spaces

Dafna Merom, Drew Meehan, Philayrath Phongsavan, and Ori Gudes

development and testing new digital technologies to strengthen surveillance system.” The digitalization of our data using GIS software or a web-based Excel file allows for consistent updates of new offerings as well as data interrogative options; for example, the cultural activity coordinator at the council

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Neighborhood Places for Preschool Children’s Physical Activity: A Mixed-Methods Study Using Global Positioning System, Geographic Information Systems, and Accelerometry Data

Pulan Bai, Jasper Schipperijn, Michael Rosenberg, and Hayley Christian

accelerometry and Global Positioning System (GPS) units provide objective data on the locations where preschool children engage in physical activity. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can then be used to identify the type of locations and the distance from a participants’ home. The method of combining

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Using Accelerometer/GPS Data to Validate a Neighborhood-Adapted Version of the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ)

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