We are continuously investigating the relationship between the built environment and population health. Our findings can be used by policy makers and practitioners to create physical activity supportive environments that promote health and wellbeing. Find more information about our current research projects below.
Our research lab and the Doyle-Baker lab are conducting a third-party evaluation to assess the outcomes of the Vivo for Healthier Generations’ community based initiative called the Vivo Play Project (VPP). The VPP aims to increase physical activity, social connections, parks use and spontaneous outdoor play by 10% while decreasing sedentary behaviour by 10% in the North Central Calgary community over a 4 year period. This study involves collecting baseline data through a cross-sectional survey to evaluate the long-term impact of the VPP; collecting data on the outcomes and impacts of community play events; and an assessment of the impacts of a pilot intervention utilizing wearable technology and a dashboard application to track and monitor physical activity and health.
Urban Design and Health Natural Experiment
This natural experiment seeks to understand the extent to which the health of populations is immediately impacted by local government initiatives that modify neighbourhood design. Participants were sampled from two Calgary neighbourhoods undergoing major built-environment modifications as part of the City of Calgary’s “Main Streets” and “Livable Streets” initiatives. Health and social outcomes are compared before and after the changes to neighbourhood design are made. This study will provide a greater understanding of how self-reported neighbourhood-based physical activity patterns, health and fitness, social interaction, mental health and quality of life are affected by modifications to the neighborhood built environment.
Built Environment and Pedometer Intervention
This project investigates the degree to which socio-demographic, psychological, and perceived and built neighbourhood characteristics enable or hinder physical activity participation among inactive adults participating in the Alberta-based “UWALK” pedometer intervention. Changes in pedometer and self-reported physical activity outcomes, perceived walkability and psychological characteristics are measured during the first stage of the study. Qualitative semi-structured interviews are then used to capture the participant’s experiences and the personal and environmental barriers encountered when engaging in the "UWALK" intervention. This project will provide insight into how the neighbourhood built environment impacts the effectiveness of physical activity interventions as well as influences physical activity behaviour.
The DISPARE Study
The Canadian public health response to COVID-19 has instructed individuals to physically distance from others and many public and private recreational facilities and non-essential shops and services have been forced to close or restrict access. These measures have impacted people’s daily lives and likely influenced decision-making regarding physical activity and sedentary behaviour. The ‘Distancing Impacts on Sedentariness and Physical Activity in Residential Environments’ (DISPARE) study explores how the public health emergency measures in Calgary have influenced the lived experiences of engaging in physical activity and sedentary behaviour decision-making and adult’s perceptions of health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Adult’s perceptions of their neighbourhood environments will also be explored given the public health measures potential impact on people’s interaction with their local environments. The DISPARE research project builds upon community survey data collected as part of the Vivo Play Project evaluation and involves the collection of quantitative and qualitative data.
Housing Affordability and Walkability in Canada Study
This study examines whether housing affordability is associated with neighbourhood walkability in Canadian cities. For this project, we will link data about housing costs from the Canadian Census with data about physical activity-supportive environments (provided by the Canadian Urban Environmental Health Research Consortium (CANUE)). We will estimate affordability-walkability associations separately for 2006 and 2016 to see if there are changes over time. In addition, we will evaluate whether certain cities have more equitable associations between housing affordability and walkability. This study will generate new knowledge on the economic equity of access to physical activity-supportive environments in Canada.
Alberta's Tomorrow Project (ATP) Residential Relocation Study
The ATP Residential Relocation Study examines how residential relocation can impact a participant’s leisure and transportation walking habits. This project uses 2005-2018 data from the ATP, a province-wide longitudinal cohort study involving a random sample of adults with no personal history of cancer. We will estimate the effect of a change in neighbourhood walkability (moving to a higher or lower walkable neighbourhood) on walking habits. Secondly, the extent to which the researcher-defined geographical area of the neighbourhood impacts the estimated associations between changes in walkability and changes in transportation and recreational walking will also be assessed. This study will provide important causal evidence about the relationship between overall walkability and walking.
Pathways to Health
The Pathway’s to Health project aims to identify how the neighbourhood environment contributes to weight status of Canadian adults. The study uses a stratified random sample of Calgary neighbourhoods that vary by socioeconomic composition and built form to understand if neighborhood socioeconomic status, physical activity-related and food-related environments are associated with physical activity and dietary behaviour of residents.
Perceptions of Neighbourhood Walkability
During the past few decades, there has been increased research, practice and political interest in creating healthy, vibrant neighbourhoods. Despite interest from a broad range of stakeholders on this topic, the perspectives of real estate and community development professionals are often not represented. Using a qualitative research approach, this project will explore, compare, and contrast perceptions of “walkability”, “bike-ability”, “vibrancy”, “livability”, and “healthy” as they relate to neighbourhood design among urban residential Real Estate Professionals, current homebuyers, and developers. The goal of this project is to develop a standardized language to describe these concepts in order to enhance communications, expectations and public satisfaction around quality of life lived in urban settings. This project is made possible through a grant from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation. The AREF supports real estate related initiatives that enhance the industry and benefit the people of Alberta. Learn more about the AREF at www.aref.ab.ca.
The BE-FIT Project
Although physical activity and health-related fitness are linked, health- related fitness has been shown to promote health independently of physical activity, and in some cases, produces additional benefit after controlling for physical activity.
The aim of built environment and fitness (BE-FIT) project is to summarize, and provide new empirical evidence, for the association between the built environment and health-related fitness in urban dwelling adults. The BE-FIT project will provide evidence on the association between the neighbourhood built environment and health-related fitness through a systematic review of the literature, a nationally representative Statistics Canada cohort, and a recruitment of urban dwelling Calgarian adults. The results from the BE-FIT project will aid urban planners and public health professionals in understanding how the built environment influences health-related fitness.
Affordable Housing Neighbourhood Environment Walkability Study
There is limited research investigating how the built environment impacts the health of adults with low incomes. In this study, we will examine whether there are relationships between the neighbourhood built environment and physical activity or mental health among adults who live in a home provided by Calgary Housing Company, the largest provider of subsidized housing in Calgary. Evidence from this research project will contribute to our understanding of impacts of the built environment on health among adults with lower incomes. The results could be used to inform urban planning policy to improve population health and reduce socioeconomic health-related inequities.