Presentation at the 2004 Active Living Research Annual Conference
In 1996, the US Surgeon General released a landmark report recommending that all adults participate in at least thirty minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, and preferably all, days of the week. That may by what is lost to Americans by living and working in sprawling communities that offer no physically active alternatives to travel by automobile and sedentary lifestyle at home.
The aim of Topic 1, and this proposed study, is to create an operationally defined list of built environmental variables that plausibly contribute to physical activity. These variables must be specific to different settings, different domains of physical activity, and different population subgroups. An interdisciplinary team from three universities, all leaders in relevant planning or physical activity research, will use focus groups and visual preference survey methods to identify likely determinants of physical activity. The techniques proposed will allow the team to go beyond the standard set of community design, land use, and walking and cycling infrastructure variables to explore perceptual qualities of the built environment, heretofore featured in the urban design literature but never operationalized. The literature review, qualitative analysis of focus group discussions, and quantitative analysis of visual preferences will allow the team to triangulate to a final set of environmental variables.
Once identified, the list of likely determinants will be measured in a pilot study in Gainesville, FL. For each variable, careful field measurements (our “gold standard”) will be compared for a sample of streets, trails, parks, and other environments to measurements using less labor-intensive techniques such as aerial photos, TIGER/line files, and GIS parcel level layers. They will be compared for accuracy and time required to complete measurements, and ultimately used to assess the validity and reliability of the less labor-intensive methods.
Dissemination of results will be multi- and cross-disciplinary. Rather than publishing and presenting only in our individual disciplines, this team plans to co-publish and co-present as a three-person team, proposing sessions for the America Planning Association, American Public Health Association, and other professional organizations, and to submit co-authored articles with appropriate emphases to the respective journals of these organizations. To reach a broader audience, the phenomenal power of the Internet will also be tapped. The various work products from this project will be placed on-line at websites with which we are affiliated, including websites of the Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University and the Prevention Research Center at Saint Louis University. Strategies will be pursued to ensure that these websites are among the first hits when any standard search engine is used with appropriate key words.