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

Boruff, Bryan, Nathan, Andrea, & Nijenstein, Sandra (2012) Using GPS technology to (re)-examine operational definitions of 'neighbourhood' in place-based health research. International Journal of Health Geographics, 11(1), p. 22.

View at publisher (open access)



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.


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.


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.

Impact and interest:

21 citations in Scopus
Search Google Scholar™
17 citations in Web of Science®

Citation counts are sourced monthly from Scopus and Web of Science® citation databases.

These databases contain citations from different subsets of available publications and different time periods and thus the citation count from each is usually different. Some works are not in either database and no count is displayed. Scopus includes citations from articles published in 1996 onwards, and Web of Science® generally from 1980 onwards.

Citations counts from the Google Scholar™ indexing service can be viewed at the linked Google Scholar™ search.

Full-text downloads:

99 since deposited on 12 Feb 2014
78 in the past twelve months

Full-text downloads displays the total number of times this work’s files (e.g., a PDF) have been downloaded from QUT ePrints as well as the number of downloads in the previous 365 days. The count includes downloads for all files if a work has more than one.

ID Code: 67176
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Built environment, Physical activity, Neighbourhood effects, Older adults, GPS, GIS
DOI: 10.1186/1476-072X-11-22
ISSN: 1476-072X
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EARTH SCIENCES (040000)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTH SERVICES (111700) > Preventive Medicine (111716)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Deposited On: 12 Feb 2014 01:42
Last Modified: 07 Apr 2014 00:24

Export: EndNote | Dublin Core | BibTeX

Repository Staff Only: item control page