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).
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.
Participatory GIS is a growing field. For those interested in integrating participatory GIS into healthy planning, several web sites provide helpful illustrations of the potential.
Public Participatory GIS based in a company called Vertices in New Brunswick, New Jersey, (http://www.ppgis.info/) provides illustrative maps on topics from bike crashes to a calculator for calories burned walking different routes. Not all maps are local, for example the public health maps rangr from alcohol sales places in New Orleans to food sales in Philadelphia.
Transparent Chennai (http://www.transparentchennai.com/), at the Institute for Financial Management and Research, uses GIS but with a focus on topics such as squatter settlements, environmental hazards, and other aspects of quality of life. What is particularly handy about this site is one can build a map from different kinds of information including environmental, political, infrastructural, and social issues: http://www.transparentchennai.com/buildamap/. This site really shows the potential for a fairly integrated yet still user driven experience that could be particularly helpful for those interested in working with communities on issues of health and place.
|Part of a map from Transparent Chennai
Map Kibera (http://mapkibera.org/) started in 2009 by several NGOs in a large squatter settlement in Nairobi Kenya, reportedly was an inspiration for Transparent Chennai. The site has a lot of information apart from maps, showing how different kinds of information—spreadsheets, a blog, twitter, a wiki, and so on—can be linked.
For a more technical, expert-led approach to using GIS see the DFH Threhold Analysis HIA and research oriented NEAT-GIS and LEAN-GIS protocols. These can however be used in a participatory setting. The Arden Hills Rapid HIA used similar maps as background information, for example (see report appendices).
My thanks to Azhar Tyabji, at the Institute for Financial Management and Research, for leading me to his colleague Nithya V. Raman (and her team’s) work on Transparent Chennai.
Linking health and planning requires learning about (at least) two areas. Public health folks are often confused about planning and planners have a lot to learn about health. There are a number of useful web sites and below I list just a few free guides that can lead you through the maze.
|Healthy Urban Development Checklist
- The Healthy Urban Development Checklist: A Guide for Health Services when Commenting on Development Policies, Plans and Proposals introduces public health folks to planning. Developed by the NSW Department of Health in Australia, it will be useful in many other locations. It takes a little while to load but once it’s on screen it provides a useful introduction to health issues and the planning system. It covers a typical range of issues including food, physical activity, housing, transport employment, community safety, open space, social infrastructure, social cohesion, environment, and specific development contexts such as infill.
- Delivering Healthier Communities in London was developed for the National Health Service London Healthy Development Unit in 2007. Also a bit slow to load, it is organized around key health issues–mental health, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, excessive heat and cold, and injuries. It links each of these the environmental factors.
- The Design for Health web site comes from the other direction, aimed at informing planners about health. Its health impact assessment tools draw on research summaries and can feed into planning actions. Topics are rather similar to the Healthy Urban Development Checklist (above).
Many people are interested in when to do an HIA. The simple answer is, it depends. There are a lot of different formats that may be used alone or in combination.
- Screening tools to see if an HIA is worth it
- Scoping tools to investigate the topics and dimensions worth exploring more
- Desktop or mini HIAs that can be done quickly in an office
- Rapid assessments or appraisals that re more participatory, drawing on expert and local knowledge (see an earlier post for some examples)
- Intermediate HIAs that are more comprehensive or multi-dimensional but not yet on a par with a full environmental impact assessment
- Full HIAs—a lot of work
- Integrated HIA that are plugged in to other processes
They may also be done prospectively—to figure out what may happen—or retrospectively to assess what did happen. This latter version is often looked down upon as not sufficiently proactive. However, it can be a great way to start a new planning process—looking at the current state of affairs to figure out what to do next. This can be a lot less threatening than assessing a draft plan or policy that people already invested in.
The attached diagram from a Design for Health training captures some of this variety.
Integrating health into planning often uses the approach called evidence-based practice. An article on this topic by some of the folks from Design for Health, including me, is currently available for free: http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~db=all~content=a918403162~frm=titlelink. It was a finalist in the Association of European Schools of Planning Best Paper Prize: [link no longer active]
Details about the paper are below.
Is There a Role for Evidence-Based Practice in Urban Planning and Policy?
Authors: Kevin Krizek; Ann Forsyth; Carissa Schively Slotterback
Planning Theory and Practice, 2009, 10: 4, 459 — 478.
Can the craft of planning take advantage of a growing body of planning-relevant research? Evidence-based practice proposes a better connection between research and professional work, but raises several concerns about the character of valid evidence, the strength and clarity of planning research, and inequalities in the available resources for integrating research into planning practice. Much of planning practice is a reflective craft where skills of mediation, negotiation, listening, and framing are prominent. As part of the planner’s work employing these skills, however, there is a valuable role for research-generated evidence to inform decision making. Evidence-based practice needs careful implementation but it can enrich the field of planning by linking research to practice.
|Workshop on housing options.
(Joanne Richardson in center,
Ann Forsyth photographer)
Expert-driven tools can be very helpful for assessing community health. However, in all but the smallest assessments, it’s important to combine such expert methods with more participatory approaches. Local people know their own communities and that local knowledge can be very helpful. They may also have fears that need to be investigated—some may be appropriate and some may not but in either case it is important to know about them.
Public health, urban planning, and related fields have different cultures of participation and this also varies by country, region, setting, and project type. However, one terrific resource for giving most people good ideas is the British web site People and Participation.net (now Participation Compass): http://participationcompass.org/
Register for free to gain access to the site and some really terrific tools including:
- A process planner that quizzes the user on everything from money and time available to political support and shoots out a set of participation options–click on methods then planning. Using this planner is a way of getting out of the rut of doing the same old thing. It can also just give you a place to start that is relevant to your situation.
- If you want to see all the methods they are also listed alphabetically.
- Their library is particularly good and with a keyword cloud and lists of recommended webs sites, practical guides, and web tools:http://participationcompass.org/article/index/qa
- Users can also upload case studies: http://participationcompass.org/article/index/study
The Design for Health project has a short information sheet on how to use participatory methods to integrate health into the planning process: http://www.designforhealth.net/resources/participation.html. I have reviewed some other participation tools on my Planetizen blog at: http://www.planetizen.com/node/46672.
InformeDesign (http://www.informedesign.org/) is an online database of research on people and environments. With substantial funding from the American Society of Interior Designers, and based in the University of Minnesota Department of Design, Housing, and Apparel, the database emphasizes research at the building and component level. However, there is enough other work to make it worth a visit, even for urban planning scale investigations.
The site is basically a database of research summaries in a standard format: introduction, design issue or topic, design criteria or implications, key concepts or central ideas, research methods, limitations identified by the authors of the piece, commentaries on limitations noticed by the InformeDesign reviewers as well as additional information, and a full citation.
The site offers several navigation and search options though not all are obvious. A simple search window is on the home page. There is also an advanced search engine that I found to be well designed though results are listed by URL only and one has to click on the link to the summary to get more information such as titles. Also on the home page are buttons titled “space,” “issues,” and “occupants” that link to lists of subtopics that are further subdivided on later pages. When a user clicks on a subtopic, or a sub-subtopic, articles are listed by name and author and have check boxes to add to a personalized list.
For those interested in more general information about the project, a main menu links to useful information about the site, its sponsors, and the database. An online tutorial on Research 101 provides a refresher on research vocabulary and concepts.
For those not at universities, finding research on the connections between health and places can be a bit tricky. However, a growing number of online resources are meeting these needs. The entry below lists just a few of these:
Several research funders provide free access to journals:
Some government agencies who fund and use research have online databases, including free downloads:
- The U.S. Transportation Research Board’s Transportation Research Information Service (TRIS) is a terrific database of transportation resources, some related to health and some of these available for free: http://tris.trb.org/.
There are a number of free online journals. Many are newer.
- Examples of journals with where authors pay fees, include the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (http://www.mdpi.com/journal/ijerph) and the International Journal of Health Geographics (http://www.ij-healthgeographics.com/). I have reviewed for the latter (for free) but have mixed feelings about this approach of charging to publish, although it is common in the sciences.
- In planning the online journals with free submission and publication are in related areas such as transport and include the Journal of Transport and Land Use (https://www.jtlu.org/index.php/jtlu).