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Establishing the soundness of administrative spatial units for operationalising the active living potential of residential environments: An exemplar for designing optimal zones

Riva, Mylène; Apparicio, Philippe; Gauvin, Lise; Brodeur, Jean-Marc (2008). Establishing the soundness of administrative spatial units for operationalising the active living potential of residential environments: An exemplar for designing optimal zones International Journal of Health Geographics , vol. 7 , nº 43. DOI: 10.1186/1476-072x-7-43.

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Résumé

Background: In health and place research, definitions of areas, area characteristics, and health outcomes should ideally be coherent with one another. Yet current approaches for delimiting areas mostly rely on spatial units "of convenience" such as census tracts. These areas may be homogeneous along socioeconomic conditions but heterogeneous along other environmental characteristics. This heterogeneity can lead to biased measurement of environment characteristics and misestimation of area effects on health. The objective of this study was to assess the soundness of census tracts as units of analysis for measuring the active living potential of environments, hypothesised to be associated with walking. Results: Starting with data at the smallest census area level available, zones homogeneous along three indicators of active living potential, i.e. population density, land use mix, and accessibility to services were designed. Delimitation of zones ensued from statistical clustering of the smallest areas into seven clusters or "types of environment". Mapping of clusters into a GIS led to the delineation of 898 zones characterised by one of seven types of environment, corresponding to different levels of active living potential. Homogeneity of census tracts along indicators of active living potential varied. A greater proportion (83%) of variation in accessibility to services was attributable to differences between census tracts suggesting within-tract homogeneity along this variable. However, census tracts were heterogeneous with respect to population density and land use mix where a greater proportion of the variation was attributable to within-tract differences. About 55% of tracts were characterised by a combination of three or more "types of environment" suggesting substantial within-tract heterogeneity in the active living potential of environments. Conclusion: Soundness of census tracts for measuring active living potential may be limited. Measuring active living potential with error may lead to misestimation of associations with walking, therefore limiting the correctness of inference about area effects on walking. Future studies should aim to determine homogeneity of spatial units "of convenience" along environment characteristics of interest prior to examining their association with health. Further evidence is needed to assess the extent of this methodological issue with other indicators of environment context relevant to other health indicators.

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Centre: Centre Urbanisation Culture Société
Date de dépôt: 09 oct. 2013 22:17
Dernière modification: 22 oct. 2013 19:09
URI: http://espace.inrs.ca/id/eprint/1606

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