Small Town Walkability: Measuring the Effect of the Built Environment


This study is identifying built environmental correlates of walking in rural towns and evaluating the role of low socioeconomic status (SES) and Latino ethnicity on these relationships. By studying 9 rural towns from 3 diverse regions, Washington State, the Northeast, and Texas, with a varying range of socioeconomic and ethnic characteristics, this study is: (1) measuring built environmental correlates of walking among small town residents, using objective and perceived measures of the built environment and self-reported measures of walking; (2) evaluating the degree to which built environmental correlates of walking among rural town residents are influenced by SES and Latino ethnicity; and (3) validating the perceived correlates of walking using accelerometer and global positioning system measures. The study will first involve a survey of 1,800 residents of these towns on physical activity patterns and attributes of their towns that promote or impede walking, and will next recruit a sample of 270 respondents who agree to wear two small devices measuring their physical activity for 7 consecutive days. Objective measures of their physical activity will be compared to self-reported data. This work will lay the foundation for future research on the relationship between various aspects of the rural built environment and health behaviors and, ultimately, intervention trials to help rural towns better structure the built environment to promote walking and healthier life styles among their highest risk residents.