Understanding causal relationships between the built and social environment, health and associated behaviours and risk factors
Giles-Corti, Billie, Badland, Hannah, Turrell, Gavin, Rachele, Jerome N., Gunn, Lucy, & Hooper, Paula (2014) Understanding causal relationships between the built and social environment, health and associated behaviours and risk factors. In Be Active 2014, 15-18 October 2014, Canberra, ACT.
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Introduction: Built environment interventions designed to reduce non-communicable diseases and health inequity, complement urban planning agendas focused on creating more ‘liveable’, compact, pedestrian-friendly, less automobile dependent and more socially inclusive cities.However, what constitutes a ‘liveable’ community is not well defined. Moreover, there appears to be a gap between the concept and delivery of ‘liveable’ communities. The recently funded NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence (CRE) in Healthy Liveable Communities established in early 2014, has defined ‘liveability’ from a social determinants of health perspective. Using purpose-designed multilevel longitudinal data sets, it addresses five themes that address key evidence-base gaps for building healthy and liveable communities. The CRE in Healthy Liveable Communities seeks to generate and exchange new knowledge about: 1) measurement of policy-relevant built environment features associated with leading non-communicable disease risk factors (physical activity, obesity) and health outcomes (cardiovascular disease, diabetes) and mental health; 2) causal relationships and thresholds for built environment interventions using data from longitudinal studies and natural experiments; 3) thresholds for built environment interventions; 4) economic benefits of built environment interventions designed to influence health and wellbeing outcomes; and 5) factors, tools, and interventions that facilitate the translation of research into policy and practice. This evidence is critical to inform future policy and practice in health, land use, and transport planning. Moreover, to ensure policy-relevance and facilitate research translation, the CRE in Healthy Liveable Communities builds upon ongoing, and has established new, multi-sector collaborations with national and state policy-makers and practitioners. The symposium will commence with a brief introduction to embed the research within an Australian health and urban planning context, as well as providing an overall outline of the CRE in Healthy Liveable Communities, its structure and team. Next, an overview of the five research themes will be presented. Following these presentations, the Discussant will consider the implications of the research and opportunities for translation and knowledge exchange.
Theme 2 will establish whether and to what extent the neighbourhood environment (built and social) is causally related to physical and mental health and associated behaviours and risk factors. In particular, research conducted as part of this theme will use data from large-scale, longitudinal-multilevel studies (HABITAT, RESIDE, AusDiab) to examine relationships that meet causality criteria via statistical methods such as longitudinal mixed-effect and fixed-effect models, multilevel and structural equation models; analyse data on residential preferences to investigate confounding due to neighbourhood self-selection and to use measurement and analysis tools such as propensity score matching and ‘within-person’ change modelling to address confounding; analyse data about individual-level factors that might confound, mediate or modify relationships between the neighbourhood environment and health and well-being (e.g., psychosocial factors, knowledge, perceptions, attitudes, functional status), and; analyse data on both objective neighbourhood characteristics and residents’ perceptions of these objective features to more accurately assess the relative contribution of objective and perceptual factors to outcomes such as health and well-being, physical activity, active transport, obesity, and sedentary behaviour. At the completion of the Theme 2, we will have demonstrated and applied statistical methods appropriate for determining causality and generated evidence about causal relationships between the neighbourhood environment, health, and related outcomes. This will provide planners and policy makers with a more robust (valid and reliable) basis on which to design healthy communities.
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