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Design For Health

Decibel Meters for Smart Phones

High noise levels are an irritation and, at very high levels, a health hazard. Several new applications allow smart phone owners to turn their phone into a sound meter.  A number are reviewed at healthyhearing.com.

For more about the connections between noise and health see the noise section of the Design for Health web site.

Traffic in Stockholm

Collections of Tools for Measuring Active Transport

With growing interest in active transport practitioners and researchers have created a large number of tools to measure active transport behavior and environments. The following web sites provide lists or databases of such tools. If you want to measure AT, such sites can be a good place to start. Thye have been sponsored by such groups as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the National Cancer Institite, and the Federal Highway Administration:

Pedestrians in suburban Paris. Photo: Ann Forsyth

Tools: The National Collaborative for Childhood Obesity Research Measure Registry

Recently I highlighted work of the National Collaborative for Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR). a group spearheaded by the National Institute of Health, Centers for Disease Control, and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. They have now released a new tool, or rather a registry of measures related to diet and physical activity: http://tools.nccor.org/measures/. I was part of the team on this project. My role was cataloging some of the physical activity measures, a mix of “questionnaires, instruments, diaries, logs, electronic devices, direct observations of people or environments, protocols, and analytic techniques.” Overall there are over 700 measures.


Example of Straight Line and Network
Buffers Created Using GI


The main search page at http://tools.nccor.org/measures/ allows users to search by domain (e.g. Individual dietary behavior, food environment…), measure type, age of people measured (though as this information seems to have been unevenly cataloged I found it not so useful for environmental measures), and context or type of place. Measures with reliability and validity information, as well as those used in studies of children and adolescents, were given priority. However, for the domain of physical activity environments this would have limited the measures too much so these are drawn from a wider range of sources.

Tools: The Pedestrian and Bicycling Survey (PABS)

I’ve recently been involved creating a new survey for measuring transportation behavior, particularly walking and cycling.  The Pedestrian and Bicycling Survey (PABS) is a mail out/mail back survey designed to be an inexpensive means for local governments to learn about nonmotorized transportation use in their communities.

An important component of the design of the PABS was creating a probabilistic sampling approach that would be relatively straightforward to administer and, if desired, could be carried out in house (within municipal agencies). While other sampling approaches—such as snowball sampling across the internet—can achieve a large number of responses, the probability of any person being asked to take the survey is not known making it a challenge to generalize from the sample to the wider population.

Pedestrians in suburban Hong Kong
Documentation includes a report outlining how the survey was developed and the results of reliability (repeatability) sampling. A manual provides step by step guidance about how to use the survey too. The survey is provided at the end of both documents and is available in English and Spanish. Materials are available for download at http://transweb.sjsu.edu/project/ 2907.html (scroll down to find the manual).
Future plans include creating a more modular version so users can mix and match sections to suit the questions they need answered. Updates will be available at http://www.designforhealth.net/health/PABS.html.

Tools: The National Collaborative for Childhood Obesity Research Catalog of Surveillance Systems

The National Collaborative for Childhood Obesity Research is a group spearheaded by the National Institute of Health, Centers for Disease Control, and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The Catalog of Surveillance Systems is a new product, also sponsored by the USDA. The catalog provides a searchable database of ongoing monitoring systems related to health. It includes both public systems such as the Census of Agriculture and National Vital Statistics System and private ones such as the Nielsen Homescan and InfoUSA.com. In all, 77 systems are represented.

The database can be filtered by keywords related to the level (person to community to policy), scope (local, state, national), key health variables, age groups, ethnicity, research design, and cost to use.

Each system has an individual entry including information on distinctive characteristics, sampling, key variables, costs, whether information is linked to geographical databases or to other surveys, example publications using the data, and other resources.

This is an extremely useful database and can provide a quick point of entry for those interested in assessing what data are available.
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