‘The health-location connection’: using GIS and social media on smartphones to track engagement with the Local urban environment for work, recreation, and physical activity
Carroll, Julie-Anne, Ben Harush, Orit Rivka, & Washington, Tracy L. (2012) ‘The health-location connection’: using GIS and social media on smartphones to track engagement with the Local urban environment for work, recreation, and physical activity. In Alliance for Healthy Cities , 26 - 28 October 2012, Brisbane Exhibition and Convention Centre. (Unpublished)
A technologically innovative study was undertaken across two suburbs in Brisbane, Australia, to assess socioeconomic differences in women's use of the local environment for work, recreation, and physical activity. Mothers from high and low socioeconomic suburbs were instructed to continue with usual daily routines, and to use mobile phone applications (Facebook Places, Twitter, and Foursquare) on their mobile phones to ‘check-in’ at each location and destination they reached during a one-week period. These smartphone applications are able to track travel logistics via built-in geographical information systems (GIS), which record participants’ points of latitude and longitude at each destination they reach. Location data were downloaded to Google Earth and excel for analysis. Women provided additional qualitative data via text regarding the reasons and social contexts of their travel. We analysed 2183 ‘check-ins’ for 54 women in this pilot study to gain quantitative, qualitative, and spatial data on human-environment interactions. Data was gathered on distances travelled, mode of transport, reason for travel, social context of travel, and categorised in terms of physical activity type – walking, running, sports, gym, cycling, or playing in the park. We found that the women in both suburbs had similar daily routines with the exception of physical activity. We identified 15% of ‘check-ins’ in the lower socioeconomic group as qualifying for the physical activity category, compared with 23% in the higher socioeconomic group. This was explained by more daily walking for transport (1.7kms to 0.2kms) and less car travel each week (28.km to 48.4kms) in the higher socioeconomic suburb. We ascertained insights regarding the socio-cultural influences on these differences via additional qualitative data. We discuss the benefits and limitations of using new technologies and Google Earth with implications for informing future physical and social aspects of urban design, and health promotion in socioeconomically diverse cities.
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