Online Program

All policy is local: Public health professionals' experience with shaping the built environment

Wednesday, November 6, 2013 : 11:10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

Stephenie C. Lemon, PhD, Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA
Karin Valentine Goins, MPH, Preventive and Behavioral Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA
Kristin Schneider, Ph.D., Psychology, Rosalind Franklin University, North Chicago, IL
Ross C. Brownson, PhD, The Brown School & Prevention Research Center of St. Louis, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO
Kelly R. Evenson, PhD, Department of Epidemiology, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Amy A. Eyler, PhD, The Brown School & Prevention Research Center of St. Louis, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO
Katie M. Heinrich, PhD, Department of Kinesiology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS
Jill Litt, PhD, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Colorado School of Public Health, Aurora, CO
Rodney Lyn, PhD, MS, School of Public Health, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA
Nancy O'Hara Tompkins, PhD, Prevention Research Center; Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV
Jay Maddock, PhD, Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Hawai'i Manoa, Honolulu, HI
The built environment significantly impacts physical activity. At the local level, policies related to the built environment are often determined by municipal decision-makers. Local public health officials are charged with addressing the obesity epidemic and increasing physical activity, yet their experience in shaping local built environment policy is unclear. The goal of this study was to describe US public health officials' experiences with built environment-related policy and compare their involvement to other municipal officials (planning, transportation, development, parks and recreation, mayors/city managers, and municipal legislators). A web-based survey was conducted among 453 local elected and appointed officials representing 8 states and 53 municipalities. Respondents were asked whether they had ever participated in development, adoption, or implementation of policy affecting community design and layout in three domains: land use, transportation, and parks and recreation. Involvement in five policy types (ordinance, plan, design standards, funding reallocation, new funding) was assessed for each domain. Among all respondents, 74% indicated past experience with land use policy, 75% with transportation policy, and 64% with parks and recreation policy. Among public health officials, however, only 29%, 42%, and 26% had worked on such policies, respectively (p-value <0.0001 for each). For each domain, public health officials had greatest involvement with plan development and least involvement with funding decisions. Findings illustrate a gap between public health officials' experiences and evolving expectations about their role in built environment policy. Research is needed to understand best practices for integrating public health into the built environment decision-making process.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related education
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Identify opportunities for increasing local public health officials involvement in built environment policy decision making

Keyword(s): Physical Activity, Environment

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been PI on several federally funded grants focusing on physical activity and obesity. I serve as director of the Prevention Research Center at UMass Medical School and site PI for the the Physical Activity Policy Research Network. I was lead investigator for this multi-site study focusing on the built environment at the local level.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.