Project Synopsis: The overall purpose of this research is to determine the effect of neighborhood design and home environment on physical activity and other health habits. We are studying people before and after they move into a new community. This study seeks to understand the extent to which individual preferences and neighborhood design shape our travel and physical activity patterns.
Project Goals: (1) Examine how neighborhood design affects physical activity behavior and related health outcomes. (2) Examine how neighborhood design may impact other health outcomes, such as intention to be physically active, body mass index, and quality of life. (3) Assess changes in travel behavior and air pollutants generated after moving to or from a walkable neighborhood.
Project Timeline: SHIFT is funded for 3 years (with an additional one year extension) and began in September 2006.
Target Audiences: Realtors, developers, homebuyers, policy makers, urban planners, public health professionals, homebuilders, and transportation officials.
Project Description: What if your neighborhood was designed in such a way that you could safely walk and bicycle to your daily destinations? Would you drive less and be more physically active? Incorporating walking and bicycling into the daily travel routines of Americans is a practical way to attain the health benefits of regular physical activity and it may also help to alleviate traffic congestion, save energy, reduce air and noise pollution, conserve land, and produce various other environmental benefits. We are interested in finding out the effect of neighborhood design on health, physical activity and travel behavior through two related studies, SHIFT 1 and SHIFT 2.
SHIFT 1 (Moving to a Traditional Neighborhood Development):
SHIFT 1 is being conducted to take advantage of a “natural experiment,” the development of a Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND), to help answer important questions about the link between the environment, physical activity, and health. Increasingly, there has been interest among public health professionals in TNDs—sometimes called “New Urbanist,” “Smart Growth,” “walkable,” or “activity-friendly”—as an alternative to conventional suburban developments. Suburban designs are characterized by a strict separation of land uses, with businesses located outside of residential neighborhoods. In contrast, TNDs emphasize a combination of different housing types and commercial uses densely located around a town center. TNDs offer the potential for reducing automobile use and improving capacity for walking and cycling for transportation, but they typically require changes in zoning laws and street design standards.
A pre-post, quasi-experimental study design is used to examine environmental exposures, physical activity behavior, secondary outcomes, and important covariates before and after individuals move to a TND. Self-administered mail-back surveys, motion sensing devices (accelerometers), and travel diaries will be used to assess the participant’s physical activity patterns and travel behavior.
SHIFT 2 (Moving Within Three Counties)
In SHIFT 2, a group of participants will be recruited from the population of residents living within three counties within the St. Louis metropolitan area and will be limited to those persons whose current home is for sale and who are planning to move to another home within the same three counties. At least four weeks prior to moving and again approximately one year later (only among successful home sellers), eligible participants will be asked to complete a questionnaire by telephone and wear a motion sensing device (accelerometer) to track physical activity over five days. After the sale and relocation, individuals will be resurveyed to assess behavior after moving. Geographic information systems (GIS) will be used to objectively compare the walkability of the participants’ prior neighborhood to the new neighborhood.
Implications for Research and Practice: The knowledge gained from this study may help raise awareness of the effects of neighborhood environment on health and may help accelerate policy change by promoting community enhancements that encourage walking and bicycling. Also, the results from this research may guide urban planners, developers, and city officials in the process of improving community design in the future.
Ross Brownson, PhD: Principal Investigator
Christine Hoehner, PhD: Principal Investigator
Cheryl Carnoske, MPH, RD: Project Manager
Lauren Carothers: Research Assistant:
Emory University*, San Diego State University*, University of California, Davis*, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center*, Lawrence Frank and Co., LLC.,* The National Association of Realtors*, The National Association of Homebuilders.*
Funders: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation*
Related Publications: Carnoske, C.,Hoehner, C., Ruthmann, N., Frank, L., Handy, S., Hill, J., Ryan, S., Sallis, J., Glanz, K., Brownson, R. Developer and realtor perspectives on factors that influence development, sale, and perceived demand for activity-friendly communities. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, (In press).
Study of Health in Families in Transition (SHIFT)Survey developers.pdf
Presentations: The impact of the built environment on physical activity and obesity. Ross Brownson, PhD. February, 2009.
*The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded a pilot study examining the impact of neighborhood design on health in several cities across the country. This study occurred concurrently with the first two years of SHIFT 1.