Table of Contents Author Guidelines Submit a Manuscript
Journal of Environmental and Public Health
Volume 2012, Article ID 203141, 9 pages
Research Article

Built Environment and Its Influences on Walking among Older Women: Use of Standardized Geographic Units to Define Urban Forms

1Population Research Center and Institute of Metropolitan Studies, Portland State University, P.O. Box 751, Portland, OR 97207, USA
2Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University, 3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Road, Mail Code CB 669, Portland, OR 97239, USA
3Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, Northwest/Hawaii, 3800 N. Interstate Avenue, Portland, OR 97227, USA
4Metro Data Resource Center, 600 NE Grand Avenue, Portland, OR 97232, USA
5Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Drexel University School of Public Health, 1505 Race Street, MS 1033, Philadelphia, PA 19102, USA

Received 4 January 2012; Accepted 12 June 2012

Academic Editor: David Strogatz

Copyright © 2012 Vivian W. Siu et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Consensus is lacking on specific and policy-relevant measures of neighborhood attributes that may affect health outcomes. To address this limitation, we created small standardized geographic units measuring the transit, commercial, and park area access, intersection, and population density for the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area. Cluster analysis was used to identify six unique urban forms: central city, city periphery, suburb, urban fringe with poor commercial access, urban fringe with pool park access, and satellite city. The urban form information was linkable to the detailed physical activity, health, and socio-demographic data of 2,005 older women without the use of administrative boundaries. Evaluation of the relationship between urban forms and walking behavior indicates that older women residing in city center were more likely to walk than those living in city periphery, suburb communities, and urban fringe with poor commercial access; however, these women were not significantly more likely to walk compared to those residing in urban fringe with poor park access or satellite city. Utility of small standardized geographic units and clusters to measure and define built environment support research investigating the impact of built environment and health. The findings may inform environmental/policy interventions that shape communities and promote active living.