"We asked about the type of housing in their neighbourhoods," said Berry, "because single family, detached family dwellings tend to reduce walkability whereas in high-density, mixed residential neighbourhoods people can walk out of their apartment, go to the grocery store or other places easy to walk to."
In neighbourhood design, said Berry, there are the three D's of walkability: diversity, density and design. "And then there are people's perceptions," said Berry. "Low-income neighbourhoods would rank quite high on the walkability index, but people aren't walking because of perceived safety issues, or the only place to go is the convenience store on the corner."
Finally, said Berry, "I was surprised to find that objective walkability (an index assessing density, diversity and design) didn't come up as significant at all in our findings. There's a body of cross-sectional literature showing the relationship between the walkability of a neighbourhood and BMI, but there are some other studies, and now this longitudinal one, that actually look at the change in BMI and are calling that relationship into question.
"It might be that the perception of walkability is more important than these objective measures."
Going forward, said Berry, "We really need to pay attention to people in the lower income neighbourhoods and what we can do to help them; work with their community leagues, listen to, and understand their perceptions and what they value."
|Contact: Jane Hurly|
University of Alberta - Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation