Evaluating Walkability in Fayetteville, Arkansas: Impacts of Attitudinal Preferences and Urban Form on Walking Trip Counts and Body Mass Index Scores
Brandes, Uwe S.
Neighborhood form impacts health outcomes. Urban planning and public health researchers have partnered to understand the built and social variables associated with healthy places and populations. The dominant influence of passenger vehicles in American land use planning over the last century has sparked opposition planning movements led by iconic planners including Jane Jacobs, Peter Calthorpe, and Andres Duany of the New Urbanist movement, who argue for a built environment designed for walkability and the promotion of wellbeing, but the question remains: is simply changing the built environment enough to stifle rising obesity rates? Examining two neighborhoods in Fayetteville, Arkansas, this study design incorporates a walkability index, survey, survey data, and geospatial analysis to explore the relationship between population health and attitudinal, social, and built environment variables that influence obesity rates by census tract grouping. Results from survey data analysis suggest a combination of urban form and individual attitudinal favorability are both influential in the transportation mode decision process, but that urban form is slightly more predictive of walking trips over a seven day period. Over time, land use approaches, coupled with public promotional campaigns can promote and encourage healthy lifestyle changes. This paper seeks to expand the literature on the relationship between urban form and social determinants of health, by broadening the sample of cities to include a mid-size metro in the American South. Adding appropriate infrastructure and implementing new urbanist approaches to land use can change the social fabric of a community in a way that promotes a healthy lifestyle leading to a reduction in obesity rates over time.
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