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Special Issue "The Impacts of the Built Environment on Public Health"

A special issue of International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (ISSN 1660-4601).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 December 2015)

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Harry Timmermans

Department of the Built Environment, Urban Science and Systems, Eindhoven University of Technology, P.O. Box 513, 5600 MB Eindhoven, The Netherlands
Website | E-Mail
Phone: 31402473315
Guest Editor
Dr. Astrid Kemperman

Department of the Built Environment, Urban Science and Systems, Eindhoven University of Technology, P.O. Box 513, 5600 MB Eindhoven, The Netherlands
Website | E-Mail
Interests: urban planning, quality of life, physical activity, leisure activities
Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Pauline Van den Berg

Department of the Built Environment, Urban Science and Systems, Eindhoven University of Technology, P.O. Box 513, 5600 MB Eindhoven, The Netherlands
Website | E-Mail
Interests: social networks; social activity-travel behavior; urban planning; residential environments; quality of life

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

We are organizing a Special Issue on the impact of the built environment on public health in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. The venue is a peer-reviewed scientific journal that publishes articles and communications in the interdisciplinary area of environmental health sciences and public health. For detailed information on the journal, we refer you to https://www.mdpi.com/journal/ijerph.

Improving public health is an important objective for urban planners and policy makers. Public health refers to preventing disease, prolonging life, and promoting physical, mental, and social well-being. The built environment, including neighborhoods, public spaces, parks, housing, and transportation systems may affect public health, through individual transportation choices (e.g., using active modes instead of a car), activity patterns
(e.g., promoting social participation), and environmental exposure. Research, both in cities and rural areas, and in both developing and developed countries, can offer a critical guide for policy efforts and planning for public health.

This Special Issue is open to any subject area related to the impacts of the built environment on public health. The listed keywords suggest just a few of the many possibilities.

Prof. Dr. Harry Timmermans
Dr. Astrid Kemperman
Dr. Pauline van den Berg
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • built environment
  • aging in place
  • public health
  • health geography
  • sense of community
  • quality of life
  • physical activity
  • walkability
  • social participation
  • leisure
  • environmental exposure
  • emissions

Published Papers (20 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
Adaptation and Evaluation of the Neighborhood Environment Walkability Scale in India (NEWS-India)
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2016, 13(4), 401; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph13040401
Received: 11 February 2016 / Revised: 23 March 2016 / Accepted: 25 March 2016 / Published: 2 April 2016
Cited by 13 | PDF Full-text (356 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality, with most of these deaths occurring in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) like India. Research from developed countries has consistently demonstrated associations between built environment features and physical activity levels of populations. [...] Read more.
Physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality, with most of these deaths occurring in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) like India. Research from developed countries has consistently demonstrated associations between built environment features and physical activity levels of populations. The development of culturally sensitive and reliable measures of the built environment is a necessary first step for accurate analysis of environmental correlates of physical activity in LMICs. This study systematically adapted the Neighborhood Environment Walkability Scale (NEWS) for India and evaluated aspects of test-retest reliability of the adapted version among Indian adults. Cultural adaptation of the NEWS was conducted by Indian and international experts. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with local residents and key informants in the city of Chennai, India. At baseline, participants (N = 370; female = 47.2%) from Chennai completed the adapted NEWS-India surveys on perceived residential density, land use mix-diversity, land use mix-access, street connectivity, infrastructure and safety for walking and cycling, aesthetics, traffic safety, and safety from crime. NEWS-India was administered for a second time to consenting participants (N = 62; female = 53.2%) with a gap of 2–3 weeks between successive administrations. Qualitative findings demonstrated that built environment barriers and constraints to active commuting and physical activity behaviors intersected with social ecological systems. The adapted NEWS subscales had moderate to high test-retest reliability (ICC range 0.48–0.99). The NEWS-India demonstrated acceptable measurement properties among Indian adults and may be a useful tool for evaluation of built environment attributes in India. Further adaptation and evaluation in rural and suburban settings in India is essential to create a version that could be used throughout India. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Impacts of the Built Environment on Public Health)
Open AccessArticle
Sports Facilities, Shopping Centers or Homes: What Locations are Important for Adults’ Physical Activity? A Cross-Sectional Study
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2016, 13(3), 287; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph13030287
Received: 14 January 2016 / Revised: 24 February 2016 / Accepted: 1 March 2016 / Published: 4 March 2016
Cited by 12 | PDF Full-text (803 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Physical activity (PA) is influenced by the built environment. However, little is known about the types of built environment where adults spend their time, and at what levels of PA they engage in those environments. Understanding the effect of the built environment on [...] Read more.
Physical activity (PA) is influenced by the built environment. However, little is known about the types of built environment where adults spend their time, and at what levels of PA they engage in those environments. Understanding the effect of the built environment on PA requires insight into PA behavior at different types of locations (e.g., home, work, shopping centers, and sports facilities). Therefore, this study describes where adults aged 45–65 years were active with moderate-to-vigorous intensity (MVPA), and examines associations of socio-demographic factors and neighborhood with MVPA at these locations. Participants’ (N = 308) PA was measured for seven days using accelerometers and GPS-devices. Adults spent most minutes of MVPA at home and work. Highest MVPA-ratios of total time spent at a location were achieved in sports facilities and during transport. Neighborhood characteristics and socio-demographic factors such as work status, health status and household structure, had significant effects on MVPA at various locations and on total MVPA. Understanding PA behavior at various locations may provide insights that allow professionals in different domains (e.g., health, landscaping, urban planning) to develop strategies to stimulate PA. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Impacts of the Built Environment on Public Health)
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Open AccessArticle
Environment and Its Influence on Health and Demographics in South Korea
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2016, 13(2), 183; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph13020183
Received: 20 September 2015 / Revised: 14 January 2016 / Accepted: 27 January 2016 / Published: 4 February 2016
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (3496 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
As the prevalence of overweight and obesity has been increasing in South Korea, it is critical to better understand possible associations between environmental surroundings and general health status. We characterize key health test readings and basic demographic information from 10,816 South Koreans, obtained [...] Read more.
As the prevalence of overweight and obesity has been increasing in South Korea, it is critical to better understand possible associations between environmental surroundings and general health status. We characterize key health test readings and basic demographic information from 10,816 South Koreans, obtained from two Ubiquitous Healthcare (U-Healthcare) centers that have distinct surrounding neighborhood characteristics. One is located in a rural area in Busan, the other is located in an urban area in Daegu surrounded by a highly crowded residential and commercial business area. We analyze comprehensive health data sets, including blood pressure, body mass index, pulse rate, and body fat percentage from December 2013 to December 2014 to study differences in overall health test measurements between users of rural and urban U-Healthcare centers. We conduct multiple regression analyses to evaluate differences in general health status between the two centers, adjusting for confounding factors. We report statistical evidence of differences in blood pressure at the two locations. As local residents are major users, the result indicates that the environmental surroundings of the centers can influence the demographics of the users, the type of health tests in demand, and the users’ health status. We further envision that U-Healthcare centers will provide public users with an opportunity for enhancing their current health, which could potentially be used to prevent them from developing chronic diseases, while providing surveillance healthcare data. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Impacts of the Built Environment on Public Health)
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Open AccessArticle
Effects of the Residential Environment on Health in Japan Linked with Travel Behavior
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2016, 13(2), 190; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph13020190
Received: 30 October 2015 / Revised: 18 January 2016 / Accepted: 28 January 2016 / Published: 3 February 2016
PDF Full-text (1307 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This paper aims to clarify how the residential environment is associated with overall health-related quality of life (QOL) via active travel (walking and cycling), by reflecting the influence of different trip purposes in Japan. The health-related QOL includes physical, mental, and social dimensions. [...] Read more.
This paper aims to clarify how the residential environment is associated with overall health-related quality of life (QOL) via active travel (walking and cycling), by reflecting the influence of different trip purposes in Japan. The health-related QOL includes physical, mental, and social dimensions. For this study we implemented a questionnaire survey in 20 cities in Japan in 2010 and obtained valid answers from 1202 respondents. The residential environment is defined in terms of distances to and densities of different daily facilities extracted from both the survey and external GIS data. We found that the effects of residential environment on active travel behavior are mixed and limited, depending on types of trip makers. Unexpectedly, travel behavior has no direct effects on the health-related QOL. The residential environment, which is only observed indirectly via lifestyle habits for commuters, has limited effects on health. As for noncommuters, neither their travel behavior nor the residential environment influences their health-related QOL. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Impacts of the Built Environment on Public Health)
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Open AccessArticle
Barriers to Walking: An Investigation of Adults in Hamilton (Ontario, Canada)
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2016, 13(2), 179; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph13020179
Received: 8 September 2015 / Revised: 22 December 2015 / Accepted: 25 January 2016 / Published: 30 January 2016
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (271 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This study investigates perceived barriers to walking using data collected from 179 randomly-selected adults between the ages of 18 and 92 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. A survey (Hamilton Active Living Study) asked questions about socio-demographics, walking, and barriers to walking. A series of [...] Read more.
This study investigates perceived barriers to walking using data collected from 179 randomly-selected adults between the ages of 18 and 92 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. A survey (Hamilton Active Living Study) asked questions about socio-demographics, walking, and barriers to walking. A series of binary logit models are estimated for twenty potential barriers to walking. The results demonstrate that different barriers are associated with different sub-groups of the population. Females, senior citizens, and those with a higher body mass index identify the most barriers to walking, while young adults, parents, driver’s license owners, and bus pass owners identify the fewest barriers. Understanding who is affected by perceived barriers can help policy makers and health promotion agencies target sub-groups of the population in an effort to increase walking. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Impacts of the Built Environment on Public Health)
Open AccessArticle
Built Environment Influences of Children’s Physical Activity: Examining Differences by Neighbourhood Size and Sex
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2016, 13(1), 130; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph13010130
Received: 15 November 2015 / Revised: 11 January 2016 / Accepted: 12 January 2016 / Published: 15 January 2016
Cited by 21 | PDF Full-text (288 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Neighbourhoods can facilitate or constrain moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) among children by providing or restricting opportunities for MVPA. However, there is no consensus on how to define a child’s neighbourhood. This study examines the influence of the neighbourhood built environment on objectively measured [...] Read more.
Neighbourhoods can facilitate or constrain moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) among children by providing or restricting opportunities for MVPA. However, there is no consensus on how to define a child’s neighbourhood. This study examines the influence of the neighbourhood built environment on objectively measured MVPA among 435 children (aged 9–14 years) in London (ON, Canada). As there is no consensus on how to delineate a child’s neighbourhood, a geographic information system was used to generate measures of the neighbourhood built environment at two buffer sizes (500 m and 800 m) around each child’s home. Linear regression models with robust standard errors (cluster) were used to analyze the relationship between built environment characteristics and average daily MVPA during non-school hours on weekdays. Sex-stratified models assessed sex-specific relationships. When accounting for individual and neighbourhood socio-demographic variables, park space and multi-use path space were found to influence children’s MVPA. Sex-stratified models found significant associations between MVPA and park space, with the 800 m buffer best explaining boys’ MVPA and the 500 m buffer best explaining girls’ MVPA. Findings emphasize that, when designing built environments, programs, and policies to facilitate physical activity, it is important to consider that the size of the neighbourhood influencing a child’s physical activity may differ according to sex. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Impacts of the Built Environment on Public Health)
Open AccessArticle
Differences in Ambient Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Concentrations between Streets and Alleys in New York City: Open Space vs. Semi-Closed Space
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2016, 13(1), 127; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph13010127
Received: 19 November 2015 / Revised: 16 December 2015 / Accepted: 22 December 2015 / Published: 12 January 2016
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (917 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Background: Outdoor ambient polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) concentrations are variable throughout an urban environment. However, little is known about how variation in semivolatile and nonvolatile PAHs related to the built environment (open space vs. semi-closed space) contributes to differences in concentrations. Methods: We [...] Read more.
Background: Outdoor ambient polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) concentrations are variable throughout an urban environment. However, little is known about how variation in semivolatile and nonvolatile PAHs related to the built environment (open space vs. semi-closed space) contributes to differences in concentrations. Methods: We simultaneously collected 14, two-week samples of PAHs from the outside of windows facing the front (adjacent to the street) open side of a New York City apartment building and the alley, semi-closed side of the same apartment unit between 2007 and 2012. We also analyzed samples of PAHs measured from 35 homes across Northern Manhattan and the Bronx, 17 from street facing windows with a median floor level of 4 (range 2–26) and 18 from alley-facing windows with a median floor level of 4 (range 1–15). Results: Levels of nonvolatile ambient PAHs were significantly higher when measured from a window adjacent to a street (an open space), compared to a window 30 feet away, adjacent to an alley (a semi-closed space) (street geometric mean (GM) 1.32 ng/m3, arithmetic mean ± standard deviation (AM ± SD) 1.61 ± 1.04 ng/m3; alley GM 1.10 ng/m3, AM ± SD 1.37 ± 0.94 ng/m3). In the neighborhood-wide comparison, nonvolatile PAHs were also significantly higher when measured adjacent to streets compared with adjacent to alley sides of apartment buildings (street GM 1.10 ng/m3, AM ± SD 1.46 ± 1.24 ng/m3; alley GM 0.61 ng/m3, AM ± SD 0.81 ± 0.80 ng/m3), but not semivolatile PAHs. Conclusions: Ambient PAHs, nonvolatile PAHs in particular, are significantly higher when measured from a window adjacent to a street compared to a window adjacent to an alley, despite both locations being relatively close to street traffic. This study highlights small-scale spatial variations in ambient PAH concentrations that may be related to the built environment (open space vs. semi-closed space) from which the samples are measured, as well as the relative distance from street traffic, that could impact accurate personal exposure assessments. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Impacts of the Built Environment on Public Health)
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Open AccessArticle
Urban Natural Environments, Obesity, and Health-Related Quality of Life among Hispanic Children Living in Inner-City Neighborhoods
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2016, 13(1), 121; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph13010121
Received: 2 December 2015 / Revised: 4 January 2016 / Accepted: 6 January 2016 / Published: 12 January 2016
Cited by 14 | PDF Full-text (723 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Although a substantial body of literature has provided evidence supporting the positive effects of natural environments on well-being, little has been known about the specific spatial patterns of urban nature in promoting health-related quality of life (HRQOL) among children. This study assessed the [...] Read more.
Although a substantial body of literature has provided evidence supporting the positive effects of natural environments on well-being, little has been known about the specific spatial patterns of urban nature in promoting health-related quality of life (HRQOL) among children. This study assessed the association that the urban natural environment measured by landscape spatial patterns may have with obesity and HRQOL among Hispanic children. Ninety-two 4th and 5th grade students were recruited from Houston, Texas, and the Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory (PedsQL) was used to capture the children’s HRQOL. The quality of urban natural environments was assessed by quantifying the landscape spatial patterns, using landscape indices generated by Geographic Information Systems and remote sensing. From the bivariate analyses, children’s body mass index showed a significantly negative association with their HRQOL. After controlling for socio-demographic factors, the results revealed that larger and more tree areas were positively correlated with children’s HRQOL. In addition, those children living in areas with tree patches further apart from each other showed higher HRQOL. This research adds to the current multi-disciplinary area of research on environment-health relationships by investigating the roles of urban greeneries and linking their spatial structures with children’s HRQOL. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Impacts of the Built Environment on Public Health)
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Open AccessArticle
Housing Stakeholder Preferences for the “Soft” Features of Sustainable and Healthy Housing Design in the UK
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2016, 13(1), 111; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph13010111
Received: 30 October 2015 / Revised: 18 December 2015 / Accepted: 22 December 2015 / Published: 7 January 2016
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (1319 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
It is widely recognised that the quantity and sustainability of new homes in the UK need to increase. However, it is important that sustainable housing is regarded holistically, and not merely in environmental terms, and incorporates elements that enhance the quality of life, [...] Read more.
It is widely recognised that the quantity and sustainability of new homes in the UK need to increase. However, it is important that sustainable housing is regarded holistically, and not merely in environmental terms, and incorporates elements that enhance the quality of life, health and well-being of its users. This paper focuses on the “soft” features of sustainable housing, that is, the non-technological components of sustainable housing and neighbourhood design that can impact occupants’ health and well-being. Aims of the study are to ascertain the relative level of importance that key housing stakeholders attach to these features and to investigate whether the opinions of housing users and housing providers are aligned with regards to their importance. An online survey was carried out to gauge the level of importance that the key stakeholders, such as housing users, local authorities, housing associations, and developers (n = 235), attach to these features. Results revealed that while suitable indoor space was the feature regarded as most important by all stakeholders, there were also a number of disparities in opinion between housing users and housing providers (and among the different types of providers). This implies a scope for initiatives to achieve a better alignment between housing users and providers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Impacts of the Built Environment on Public Health)
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Open AccessArticle
A Walk in the Park: The Influence of Urban Parks and Community Violence on Physical Activity in Chelsea, MA
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2016, 13(1), 97; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph13010097
Received: 11 November 2015 / Revised: 17 December 2015 / Accepted: 28 December 2015 / Published: 4 January 2016
Cited by 12 | PDF Full-text (1621 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Proximity to a park does not necessarily imply access or use, and the social environment may positively or negatively influence the positive intentions of the built environment. To investigate parks, park use and physical activity, and their associations with exposure to community violence, [...] Read more.
Proximity to a park does not necessarily imply access or use, and the social environment may positively or negatively influence the positive intentions of the built environment. To investigate parks, park use and physical activity, and their associations with exposure to community violence, we interviewed residents (n = 354) of a densely populated urban community. Our findings indicate that proximity to any park is not associated with physical activity. However, proximity to the preferred park reported by residents to be conducive for physical activity (with walking paths, large fields, playgrounds for children and tennis courts) was associated with physical activity. Conversely, knowledge of sexual assault or rape in the neighborhood is inversely associated with every type of physical activity (park-based, outdoor, and indoor). Our findings suggest that improvements to the built environment (parks, green spaces) may be hindered by adverse social environments and both are necessary for consideration in the design of public health interventions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Impacts of the Built Environment on Public Health)
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Open AccessArticle
Active Travel by Built Environment and Lifecycle Stage: Case Study of Osaka Metropolitan Area
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2015, 12(12), 15900-15924; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph121215027
Received: 2 November 2015 / Revised: 4 December 2015 / Accepted: 9 December 2015 / Published: 15 December 2015
Cited by 9 | PDF Full-text (8727 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Active travel can contribute to physical activity achieved over a day. Previous studies have examined active travel associated with trips in various western countries, but few studies have examined this question for the Asian context. Japan has high levels of cycling, walking and [...] Read more.
Active travel can contribute to physical activity achieved over a day. Previous studies have examined active travel associated with trips in various western countries, but few studies have examined this question for the Asian context. Japan has high levels of cycling, walking and public transport, similar to The Netherlands. Most studies have focused either on children or on adults separately, however, having children in a household will change the travel needs and wants of that household. Thus, here a household lifecycle stage approach is applied. Further, unlike many previous studies, the active travel related to public transport is included. Lastly, further to examining whether the built environment has an influence on the accumulation of active travel minutes, a binary logistic regression examines the built environment’s influence on the World Health Organization’s recommendations of physical activity. The findings suggest that there is a clear distinction between the urbanized centers and the surrounding towns and unurbanized areas. Further, active travel related to public transport trips is larger than pure walking trips. Females and children are more likely to achieve the WHO recommendations. Finally, car ownership is a strong negative influence. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Impacts of the Built Environment on Public Health)
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Open AccessArticle
Active Commuting Behaviors in a Nordic Metropolitan Setting in Relation to Modality, Gender, and Health Recommendations
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2015, 12(12), 15626-15648; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph121215008
Received: 31 August 2015 / Revised: 24 November 2015 / Accepted: 25 November 2015 / Published: 9 December 2015
Cited by 5 | PDF Full-text (5645 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Active commuting between home and place of work or study is often cited as an interesting source of physical activity in a public health perspective. However, knowledge about these behaviors is meager. This was therefore studied in adult active commuters (n = [...] Read more.
Active commuting between home and place of work or study is often cited as an interesting source of physical activity in a public health perspective. However, knowledge about these behaviors is meager. This was therefore studied in adult active commuters (n = 1872) in Greater Stockholm, Sweden, a Nordic metropolitan setting. They received questionnaires and individually adjusted maps to draw their normal commuting route. Three different modality groups were identified in men and women: single-mode cyclists and pedestrians (those who only cycle or walk, respectively) and dual-mode commuters (those who alternately walk or cycle). Some gender differences were observed in trip distances, frequencies, and velocities. A large majority of the commuting trip durations met the minimum health recommendation of at least 10-minute-long activity bouts. The median single-mode pedestrians and dual-mode commuters met or were close to the recommended weekly physical activity levels of at least 150 minutes most of the year, whereas the single-mode cyclists did so only during spring–mid-fall. A high total number of trips per year (range of medians: 230–390) adds to the value in a health perspective. To fully grasp active commuting behaviors in future studies, both walking and cycling should be assessed over different seasons and ideally over the whole year. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Impacts of the Built Environment on Public Health)
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Open AccessArticle
The Effects of the Urban Built Environment on Mental Health: A Cohort Study in a Large Northern Italian City
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2015, 12(11), 14898-14915; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph121114898
Received: 22 September 2015 / Revised: 13 November 2015 / Accepted: 16 November 2015 / Published: 20 November 2015
Cited by 20 | PDF Full-text (1439 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Mental health (MH) has a relevant burden on the health of populations. Common MH disorders (anxiety and non-psychotic depression) are well associated to socioeconomic individual and neighborhood characteristics, but little is known about the influence of urban structure. We analyzed among a Turin [...] Read more.
Mental health (MH) has a relevant burden on the health of populations. Common MH disorders (anxiety and non-psychotic depression) are well associated to socioeconomic individual and neighborhood characteristics, but little is known about the influence of urban structure. We analyzed among a Turin (Northwest Italy) urban population the association at area level of different urban structure characteristics (density, accessibility by public transport, accessibility to services, green and public spaces) and consumption of antidepressants. Estimates were adjusted by individual socio-demographic variables (education, housing tenure, employment) and contextual social environment (SE) variables (social and physical disorder, crime rates). Data was extracted from the Turin Longitudinal Study (TLS)—a census-based cohort study following up prospectively the mortality and morbidity of the population. As expected, individual characteristics show the strongest association with antidepressant drug consumption, while among built environment (BE) indicators accessibility by public transport and urban density only are associated to MH, being slightly protective factors. Results from this study, in agreement with previous literature, suggest that BE has a stronger effect on MH for people who spend more time in the neighborhood. Therefore, this research suggests that good accessibility to public transport, as well as a dense urban structure (versus sprawl), could contribute to reduced risk of depression, especially for women and elderly, by increasing opportunities to move around and have an active social life. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Impacts of the Built Environment on Public Health)
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Open AccessArticle
Physiological and Psychological Effects of a Walk in Urban Parks in Fall
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2015, 12(11), 14216-14228; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph121114216
Received: 7 September 2015 / Revised: 26 October 2015 / Accepted: 2 November 2015 / Published: 9 November 2015
Cited by 25 | PDF Full-text (1452 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
In recent times, attention has been focused on the role of urban green spaces in promoting human health and well-being. However, there is a lack of evidence-based research on the physiological effects of walking in urban green areas. This study aimed to clarify [...] Read more.
In recent times, attention has been focused on the role of urban green spaces in promoting human health and well-being. However, there is a lack of evidence-based research on the physiological effects of walking in urban green areas. This study aimed to clarify the physiological and psychological effects of walking in urban parks during fall. Twenty-three males (mean age 22.3 ± 1.2 years) were instructed to walk predetermined 15-min courses in an urban park and in a nearby city area (control). Heart rate and heart rate variability were measured to assess physiological responses, and the semantic differential method, Profile of Mood States, and State-Trait Anxiety Inventory were used to measure psychological responses. We observed that walking in an urban park resulted in a significantly lower heart rate, higher parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve activity than walking through the city area. In subjective evaluations, participants were more “comfortable,” “natural,” “relaxed,” and “vigorous” after a walk in the urban park. Furthermore, they exhibited significantly lower levels of negative emotions and anxiety. These findings provide scientific evidence for the physiological and psychological relaxation effects of walking in urban parks during fall. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Impacts of the Built Environment on Public Health)
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Open AccessArticle
Perceived and Objective Measures of Neighborhood Walkability and Physical Activity among Adults in Japan: A Multilevel Analysis of a Nationally Representative Sample
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2015, 12(10), 13350-13364; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph121013350
Received: 25 August 2015 / Revised: 11 October 2015 / Accepted: 19 October 2015 / Published: 23 October 2015
Cited by 15 | PDF Full-text (953 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Although associations between a person’s neighborhood and their health have been studied internationally, most studies have been limited to a few cities or towns. Therefore, we used a nationally representative sample to explore whether perceived and objective neighborhood walkability was associated with the [...] Read more.
Although associations between a person’s neighborhood and their health have been studied internationally, most studies have been limited to a few cities or towns. Therefore, we used a nationally representative sample to explore whether perceived and objective neighborhood walkability was associated with the physical activity of residents. Data were analyzed from the Japanese General Social Surveys of 2010 (n = 2395; 1114 men and 1281 women). Perceived walkability was scored using factor analysis for the respondents’ perceptions of neighborhood conditions, while objective walkability was measured using the geographic information system approach. Finally, multilevel logistic regression analysis was performed to examine whether neighborhood walkability was associated with the frequency of leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) among respondents. We found that perceived walkability was positively associated with the frequency of LTPA (odds ratio of the highest quartile was 1.53 (1.14–2.05) compared with the lowest quartile); however, objective walkability showed no association. When stratified by gender, an association between perceived walkability and LTPA was observed among women, but only a marginally significant association was present between objective walkability and LTPA among men. We conclude that the association between neighborhood walkability and LTPA can be partially generalized across Japan. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Impacts of the Built Environment on Public Health)
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Open AccessArticle
Capturing the Interrelationship between Objectively Measured Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour in Children in the Context of Diverse Environmental Exposures
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2015, 12(9), 10995-11011; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph120910995
Received: 7 July 2015 / Revised: 26 August 2015 / Accepted: 27 August 2015 / Published: 7 September 2015
Cited by 8 | PDF Full-text (1044 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
Even though physical activity and sedentary behaviour are two distinct behaviours, their interdependent relationship needs to be studied in the same environment. This study examines the influence of urban design, neighbourhood built and social environment, and household and individual factors on the interdependent [...] Read more.
Even though physical activity and sedentary behaviour are two distinct behaviours, their interdependent relationship needs to be studied in the same environment. This study examines the influence of urban design, neighbourhood built and social environment, and household and individual factors on the interdependent relationship between objectively measured physical activity and sedentary behaviour in children in the Canadian city of Saskatoon. Saskatoon’s built environment was assessed by two validated observation tools. Neighbourhood socioeconomic variables were derived from 2006 Statistics Canada Census and 2010 G5 Census projections. A questionnaire was administered to 10–14 year old children to collect individual and household data, followed by accelerometry to collect physical activity and sedentary behaviour data. Multilevel logistic regression models were developed to understand the interrelationship between physical activity and sedentary behaviour in the context of diverse environmental exposures. A complex set of factors including denser built environment, positive peer relationships and consistent parental support influenced the interrelationship between physical activity and sedentary behaviour. In developing interventions to facilitate active living, it is not only imperative to delineate pathways through which diverse environmental exposures influence physical activity and sedentary behaviour, but also to account for the interrelationship between physical activity and sedentary behaviour. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Impacts of the Built Environment on Public Health)
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Open AccessArticle
Locations that Support Social Activity Participation of the Aging Population
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2015, 12(9), 10432-10449; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph120910432
Received: 22 June 2015 / Revised: 20 August 2015 / Accepted: 24 August 2015 / Published: 26 August 2015
Cited by 5 | PDF Full-text (977 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Social activities are an important aspect of health and quality of life of the aging population. They are key elements in the prevention of loneliness. In order to create living environments that stimulate older adults to engage in social activities, more insight is [...] Read more.
Social activities are an important aspect of health and quality of life of the aging population. They are key elements in the prevention of loneliness. In order to create living environments that stimulate older adults to engage in social activities, more insight is needed in the social activity patterns of the aging population. This study therefore analyzes the heterogeneity in older adults’ preferences for different social activity location types and the relationship between these preferences and personal and mobility characteristics. This is done using a latent class multinomial logit model based on two-day diary data collected in 2014 in Noord-Limburg in the Netherlands among 213 respondents aged 65 or over. The results show that three latent classes can be identified among the respondents who recorded social activities in the diary: a group that mainly socializes at home, a group that mainly socializes at a community center and a group that is more likely to socialize at public ‘third’ places. The respondents who did not record any interactions during the two days, are considered as a separate segment. Relationships between segment membership and personal and mobility characteristics were tested using cross-tabulations with chi-square tests and analyses of variance. The results suggest that both personal and mobility characteristics play an important role in social activity patterns of older adults. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Impacts of the Built Environment on Public Health)
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Open AccessArticle
Older People’s Perceptions of Pedestrian Friendliness and Traffic Safety: An Experiment Using Computer-Simulated Walking Environments
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2015, 12(8), 10066-10078; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph120810066
Received: 18 June 2015 / Revised: 14 August 2015 / Accepted: 17 August 2015 / Published: 21 August 2015
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Abstract
Traffic safety and pedestrian friendliness are considered to be important conditions for older people’s motivation to walk through their environment. This study uses an experimental study design with computer-simulated living environments to investigate the effect of micro-scale environmental factors (parking spaces and green [...] Read more.
Traffic safety and pedestrian friendliness are considered to be important conditions for older people’s motivation to walk through their environment. This study uses an experimental study design with computer-simulated living environments to investigate the effect of micro-scale environmental factors (parking spaces and green verges with trees) on older people’s perceptions of both motivational antecedents (dependent variables). Seventy-four consecutively recruited older people were randomly assigned watching one of two scenarios (independent variable) on a computer screen. The scenarios simulated a stroll on a sidewalk, as it is ‘typical’ for a German city. In version ‘A,’ the subjects take a fictive walk on a sidewalk where a number of cars are parked partially on it. In version ‘B’, cars are in parking spaces separated from the sidewalk by grass verges and trees. Subjects assessed their impressions of both dependent variables. A multivariate analysis of covariance showed that subjects’ ratings on perceived traffic safety and pedestrian friendliness were higher for Version ‘B’ compared to version ‘A’. Cohen’s d indicates medium (d = 0.73) and large (d = 1.23) effect sizes for traffic safety and pedestrian friendliness, respectively. The study suggests that elements of the built environment might affect motivational antecedents of older people’s walking behavior. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Impacts of the Built Environment on Public Health)
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Open AccessArticle
Disparities in Quality of Park Play Spaces between Two Cities with Diverse Income and Race/Ethnicity Composition: A Pilot Study
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2015, 12(7), 8009-8022; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph120708009
Received: 26 May 2015 / Accepted: 8 July 2015 / Published: 14 July 2015
Cited by 10 | PDF Full-text (205 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This study investigated the differences in the quality of park play spaces between an affluent and a non-affluent community in a large US Southeastern metropolitan area. Two cities were purposefully selected to reflect differences in household income and race/ethnicity characteristics. Using the Playable [...] Read more.
This study investigated the differences in the quality of park play spaces between an affluent and a non-affluent community in a large US Southeastern metropolitan area. Two cities were purposefully selected to reflect differences in household income and race/ethnicity characteristics. Using the Playable Space Quality Assessment Tool (PSQAT), all parks (n = 11, with six in the affluent city, and five in the non-affluent city) in these two cities were evaluated. The data were analyzed across three aspects of environmental features of the PSQAT: Location, Play Value and Care and Maintenance between parks in the two cities. The Mann-Whitney U test was used to test the study hypotheses. Results indicated significant differences between parks in the two cities in all three aspects of the PSQAT with p-values ≤ 0.03 and effect sizes of > 0.65, suggesting that the affluent city had parks of a higher quality than the non-affluent city. Significant disparity in Play Value (p = 0.009) in parks between these two communities suggests that children and young people are likely to have different experiences of the play spaces in their locality and therefore may experience different physical and psychological health benefits. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Impacts of the Built Environment on Public Health)

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Open AccessReview
Green Infrastructure, Ecosystem Services, and Human Health
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2015, 12(8), 9768-9798; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph120809768
Received: 5 June 2015 / Revised: 28 July 2015 / Accepted: 11 August 2015 / Published: 18 August 2015
Cited by 41 | PDF Full-text (1915 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Contemporary ecological models of health prominently feature the natural environment as fundamental to the ecosystem services that support human life, health, and well-being. The natural environment encompasses and permeates all other spheres of influence on health. Reviews of the natural environment and health [...] Read more.
Contemporary ecological models of health prominently feature the natural environment as fundamental to the ecosystem services that support human life, health, and well-being. The natural environment encompasses and permeates all other spheres of influence on health. Reviews of the natural environment and health literature have tended, at times intentionally, to focus on a limited subset of ecosystem services as well as health benefits stemming from the presence, and access and exposure to, green infrastructure. The sweeping influence of green infrastructure on the myriad ecosystem services essential to health has therefore often been underrepresented. This survey of the literature aims to provide a more comprehensive picture—in the form of a primer—of the many simultaneously acting health co-benefits of green infrastructure. It is hoped that a more accurately exhaustive list of benefits will not only instigate further research into the health co-benefits of green infrastructure but also promote consilience in the many fields, including public health, that must be involved in the landscape conservation necessary to protect and improve health and well-being. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Impacts of the Built Environment on Public Health)
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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health EISSN 1660-4601 Published by MDPI AG, Basel, Switzerland RSS E-Mail Table of Contents Alert
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