Using GPS technology to (re)-examine operational definitions of 'neighbourhood' in place-based health research

B.J. Boruff, A. Nathan, S. Nijenstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

83 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Inconsistencies in research findings on the impact of the built environment on walking across the life course may be methodologically driven. Commonly used methods to define 'neighbourhood', from which built environment variables are measured, may not accurately represent the spatial extent to which the behaviour in question occurs. This paper aims to provide new methods for spatially defining 'neighbourhood' based on how people use their surrounding environment. Results: Informed by Global Positioning Systems (GPS) tracking data, several alternative neighbourhood delineation techniques were examined (i.e., variable width, convex hull and standard deviation buffers). Compared with traditionally used buffers (i.e., circular and polygon network), differences were found in built environment characteristics within the newly created 'neighbourhoods'. Model fit statistics indicated that exposure measures derived from alternative buffering techniques provided a better fit when examining the relationship between land-use and walking for transport or leisure. Conclusions: This research identifies how changes in the spatial extent from which built environment measures are derived may influence walking behaviour. Buffer size and orientation influences the relationship between built environment measures and walking for leisure in older adults. The use of GPS data proved suitable for re-examining operational definitions of neighbourhood
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Health Geographics
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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