Different neighborhood walkability indexes for active commuting to school are necessary for urban and rural children and adolescents
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AuthorMolina García, Javier; Campos Sánchez, Francisco Sergio; García-Massó, Xavier; Herrador Colmenero, Manuel; Gálvez-Fernández, Patricia; Queralt, Ana; Chillón Garzón, Palma
School active travelActive transportYouthPhysical environmentPhysical activityHealth disparities
Molina-García, J., Campos, S., García-Massó, X. et al. Different neighborhood walkability indexes for active commuting to school are necessary for urban and rural children and adolescents. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 17, 124 (2020). [https://doi.org/10.1186/s12966-020-01028-0]
SponsorshipSpanish Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness; European Union (EU) DEP2016-75598-R; University of Granada Plan Propio de Investigacion 2016 -Excellence actions: Unit of Excellence on Exercise and Health (UCEES); Junta de Andalucia, Consejeria de Conocimiento, Investigacion y Universidades, European Regional Development Fund SOMM17/6107/UGR
Background Literature focusing on youth has reported limited evidence and non-conclusive associations between neighborhood walkability measures and active commuting to and from school (ACS). Moreover, there is a lack of studies evaluating both macro- and micro-scale environmental factors of the neighborhood when ACS is analyzed. Likewise, most studies on built environment attributes and ACS focus on urban areas, whereas there is a lack of studies analyzing rural residential locations. Moreover, the relationship between built environment attributes and ACS may differ in children and adolescents. Hence, this study aimed to develop walkability indexes in relation to ACS for urban and rural children and adolescents, including both macro- and micro-scale school-neighborhood factors. Methods A cross-sectional study of 4593 participants from Spain with a mean age of 12.2 (SD 3.6) years was carried out. Macro-scale environmental factors were evaluated using geographic information system data, and micro-scale factors were measured using observational procedures. Socio-demographic characteristics and ACS were assessed with a questionnaire. Several linear regression models were conducted, including all the possible combinations of six or less built environment factors in order to find the best walkability index. Results Analyses showed that intersection density, number of four-way intersections, and residential density were positively related to ACS in urban participants, but negatively in rural participants. In rural children, positive streetscape characteristics, number of regulated crossings, traffic calming features, traffic lanes, and parking street buffers were also negatively related to ACS. In urban participants, other different factors were positively related to ACS: number of regulated crossings, positive streetscape characteristics, or crossing quality. Land use mix acted as a positive predictor only in urban adolescents. Distance to the school was a negative predictor on all the walkability indexes. However, aesthetic and social characteristics were not included in any of the indexes. Conclusions Interventions focusing on improving built environments to increase ACS behavior need to have a better understanding of the walkability components that are specifically relevant to urban or rural samples.