Organisation

September

PhD Defence Ms Razieh Zandieh

Department of Urban and Regional Planning and Geo-information Management

Zandieh

Title of defence

Healthy urban planning: the influence of the built environment on older adults’ outdoor walking

Summary

 ‘Healthy urban planning’ is an approach addressing people’s health and healthy lifestyle in urban areas. It is about creating healthy, equitable and sustainable cities. The first objective of healthy urban planning is about promoting healthy lifestyle, especially physical activity, among citizens. Physical activity has enormous positive impacts on physical and mental health. There are many physical activity guidelines recommending people to do physical activity. Nevertheless, today, physical inactivity is a major problem posing a risk for health. It is the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality. Enhancing participation in physical activity is a public health issue of serious concern. Thus, one of the aims of healthy urban planning is to provide a built environment that encourages physical activity among all people. It is especially important to encourage physical activity among older adults (people aged 65 years and over). Physical activity for older adults is important due to increasing longevity, declining health with aging and prevalence of inactivity among older adults. Walking is an excellent type of physical activity for older adults. Walking, especially outdoor walking, has substantial health benefits for older adults. Outdoor walking refers to total walking for different purposes - including transport, recreation and exercise - in outdoor space (e.g., neighbourhood streets and parks). Therefore, it is important to encourage older adults, especially less active older adults, to take outdoor walks.

However, knowledge on older adults’ outdoor walking (especially objectively measured older adults’ outdoor walking) levels is limited. The literature indicates that three groups of factors at individual and environmental levels (i.e., personal characteristics, (individual  and area) socioeconomic deprivation and the built environment) may influence outdoor walking levels. It is important for healthy urban planning to identify the influence of the built environment on older adults’ outdoor walking levels. Although it has been realised that addressing different groups of factors separately is not enough to promote physical activity, multilevel studies  on the influences of a combination of all groups of factors (the built environment combined with personal characteristics and (individual  and area) socioeconomic deprivation) on older adults’ outdoor walking levels are scarce. Therefore, it is not clear if the relationships between built environment attributes and older adults’ outdoor walking levels differ by area deprivation. It is also unknown if built environment attributes drive disparities in older adults’ outdoor walking levels between low- and high-deprivation areas. Answering these questions may help healthy urban planning to reduce inactivity and to eliminate disparities in physical activity (i.e., outdoor walking) levels – that are important public health priorities. Therefore, this research aims to aid healthy urban planning by developing an integrated framework to assess the impacts of the built environment (combined with personal characteristics and (individual and area) socioeconomic deprivation) on older adults’ outdoor walking levels in a city (i.e., Birmingham, UK).

We conducted this research in Birmingham, United Kingdom. We applied a multilevel approach, a mixed- method (combining quantitative and qualitative methods) approach, and a spatial inequality approach. By using the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD), we identified low- and high-deprivation areas of Birmingham. The final sample included 173 participants (65 years and over) from low- and high-deprivation areas. We used the Geographic Positioning System (GPS) technology to objectively measure participants’ outdoor walking levels. We collected quantitative data on personal characteristics and individual socioeconomic deprivation by using a questionnaire. In this research, we considered the built environment on a neighbourhood scale, due to the importance of neighbourhood for older adults. Therefore, we addressed two groups of neighbourhood built environment attributes: macro built environment attributes (i.e., residential density, land-use mix and intensity, street connectivity and retail density); and micro built environment attributes (i.e., safety, pedestrian infrastructure and aesthetics). We collected quantitative data on neighbourhood built environment attributes: objective measures of macro built environment attributes (measured by using statistic data and GIS mapping data) and subjective measures of micro built environment attributes (measured by using a questionnaire). We collected qualitative data on macro and micro built environment attributes by conducting walking interviews with a subsample (n=19). Qualitative data on micro built environment attributes was also provided by completing open-ended questions of a questionnaire. For data analysis, we employed statistical analysis (e.g., hierarchical analyses, multiple regression models, t-tests and Pearson correlations), GIS analysis (i.e., spatial distributions) and content analysis.

In this research, we provide relevant results on relationships between personal characteristics, socioeconomic deprivation, and the built environment, and participants’ outdoor walking levels in low- and high-deprivation areas. We demonstrate that one personal characteristic (i.e., marital status) is related to participants’ outdoor walking levels in city and two personal characteristics (i.e., marital status and ethnicity) are related to outdoor walking levels in neighbourhood. These relationships are similar in low- and high-deprivation areas. We also show that area deprivation associates with participants’ outdoor walking levels (durations), independent of personal characteristics. It means that participants living in high-deprivation areas take shorter outdoor walks in city than their peers from low-deprivation areas. Similar trend was found for participants’ outdoor walking levels in neighbourhood. Participants’ outdoor walking frequencies, however, does not differ by area deprivation. By combining three groups of factors (personal characteristics, socioeconomic deprivation and the built environment), we show that participants living in neighbourhoods where greater land area is dedicated to green space and recreation centres or where lesser land area is dedicated to schools and industries take longer outdoor walks. Participants living in neighbourhoods with lower street connectivity (or with fewer junctions) also spend more time for outdoor walking. Similarly, participants perceiving their neighbourhoods to be safer, quieter or more aesthetically pleasing take longer outdoor walks. We show that relationships between neighbourhood built environment attributes and outdoor walking levels are similar in low- and high-deprivation areas. One macro built environment attribute (i.e., land-use mix) is related to outdoor walking levels only in low-deprivation areas.

Moreover, we demonstrate that inequalities in specific neighbourhood built environment attributes in high- versus low-deprivation areas influence disparities in participants’ outdoor walking levels. These specific neighbourhood built environment attributes are one macro built environment attribute (i.e., land-use intensity: green space, recreation centres, schools and industries intensities) and three perceived micro built environment attributes (i.e., safety, one aspect of pedestrian infrastructure (i.e., quietness) and aesthetics).
We also show that some neighbourhood built environment attributes are indirectly related to outdoor walking levels through their correlations with other neighbourhood built environment attributes. We demonstrate that there are significant correlations within and between macro and micro built environment attributes. Therefore, neighbourhood built environment attributes have a synergy in creating a neighbourhood built environment encouraging outdoor walking among participants.

In this research, we provide an integrated framework to assess the impacts of the built environment (combined with personal characteristics and socioeconomic deprivation) on older adults’ outdoor walking levels. This framework is useful for urban planners, as well as other professionals and policy makers (specifically in Birmingham) to arrange interventions for encouraging outdoor walking among older adults - especially in high-deprivation areas, where older adults are less active.

This research is a multidisciplinary study and is among the first research on older adults’ outdoor walking using objective (GPS) measures of outdoor walking levels, a mixed-method approach, a spatial inequality approach, and a multilevel approach. It enhances knowledge on objectively measured older adults’ outdoor walking levels, extends the literature on the built environment encouraging outdoor walking (walkability) and adds to the growing body of evidence on influences of spatial inequalities in the built environment (in high-versus low-deprivation areas) on physical activity levels. Findings and the approaches adopted in this research provide a new insight on older adults’ outdoor walking and offer opportunities for further studies.

Biography

Razieh Zandieh has completed her PhD research on ‘healthy urban planning: the influence of the built environment on older adults’ outdoor walking’ at department of urban and regional planning and geo-information management, ITC, University of Twente, the Netherlands. She was granted an European Union Erasmus Mundus Scholarship for doing this research. Before her PhD, she earned her Master’s Degree in Urban Design from Shahid Beheshti University, one of the top universities in Iran. Razieh has undertaken research and attended conferences since 2003 and she has several publications and presentations in English and Persian. She has used subjective and objective measures of built environment attributes and has applied qualitative methods, quantitative methods, a mixed-method approach, and a multilevel approach in her research. She is interested in multidisciplinary urban issues related to society. Her main interests are healthy urban planning and design, environmental justice and spatial inequalities.

 

Timesheet
Event starts: Thursday 21 September 2017 at 14:30
Venue: UT, Waaier 4
City where event takes place: Enschede

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