Design For Health

Colorado Active Transportation Mile Markers

People trying to plan to increase active transportation face problems with data. It isn’t clear how much active transportation is occurring so it is difficult to tell if it is increasing or decreasing. Recently I was involved with Kevin Krizek and Charlier Associates in creating a set of recommendations for measuring walking and cycling in Colorado. The report recommends eight indicators or “A

The report and a link to a webinar on the project are available at LiveWell Colorado(scroll to the bottom). You can reach the report directly at Recommendations for Measuring Active Transportation.

Illustration from the webinar

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

DFH on Flickr

Design for Health’s photo collection on flickr has been expanding recently. Check out the photos through the tag cloud at  http://www.flickr.com/photos/designforhealth/tags/.

This is a picture of the image cloud–go to the URL above to find the actual clickable tags.

What’s in a Name?


Plan available directly from the
City of Bloomington
Recently, I was looking at the Pew Health Impact Project web site and noticed a featured HIA: the Xcel Energy Corridor: http://www.healthimpactproject.org/resources#reports
This is an excerpt from a plan featured on the Design for Health web site (one of the 19 Minnesota communities in Phase 1 of the project). On Design for Health site it is listed under the place name (Bloomington) and plan name (Alternative Transportation Plan) at http://www.designforhealth.net/cases/bloomington.html

Whatever the name it’s great to have these examples featured in multiple places.

Resources: Planning and Active Living

Active living, the idea that it’s good to build exercise into daily life, has been big news in planning for a while but I still get questions about how to incorporate active living into plans. A decade ago, when it was a fairly new idea, there was the hope that if we built places where people were more prone to do activities like travel walking, that they’d keep exercising as well, increase their total activity, and reduce weight. It turns out to be a bit more complicated than this as I noted in my blog on high density and overweight adolescents in China. Research is quite mixed in its findings—there’s a lot of variation in how people respond to environments. Programs, policies, prices, education, and attitudes all shape how people use environments. But as a bottom line it is useful to provide options for people to be active in different ways so that when they want to do so they can. 

So how can you help provide options? Several web sites provide case studies of communities have done this work.
Mexico City Cycle Day, 2011. Photo: Ann Forsyth
  • Active Living by Design has been around since 2001 and has a useful web site. The group has worked with a number of cities and countied and provides case studies linked to an onsite map: http://www.activelivingbydesign.org/communities.
  • The APA has a webinar with some practice examples: http://www.planning.org/nationalcenters/health/education/webinars/activecommunity.htm
  • Design for Health also highlights some alternative transportation plans including ones by Bloomongton and St. Louis Park. Some of the questions in the DFH Comprehensive Plan Review checklists also target active living—noted in a column: http://www.designforhealth.net/resources/checklists.html

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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