Picture of houses in suburban neighbourhood

March 21 – Free webinar on creating equitable neighbourhood changes

America Walks is hosting a free webinar on walkability and equitable development changes on Wednesday, March 21st at 1pm Eastern Time,  10am Pacific Time. Join them for the “Advancing Neighborhood Change Through Equity and Inclusion” webinar here.

America Walks is a nonprofit organization in the United States of America that is leading the way in making America a great place to walk.

About the webinar

Walkability is at the cornerstone of creating neighborhoods that are vital and vibrant, allowing all members of a community to enjoy health, social and economic benefits in a variety of forms. In this webinar, we will aim to look at how to protect and promote the identity and culture of a community, while making room for new development and change. We will feature an example of a community lead equitable development plan, will provide a toolkit of approaches used to prevent displacement and make sure that evolving communities remain affordable and diverse, and hear how affordable housing developers have re-oriented their efforts to build whole communities, by supporting small businesses, protecting the culture of a place, and re-asserting the primacy of resident engagement and the importance of listening.

America Walks will share some of their recent work on the issues of gentrification and displacement and hear from three people working with and in communities around the US who are tackling this challenge. Attendees will:

  • Hear about our research into some of the resources, techniques, and current best practices available for advocates working in this area
  • Learn about a toolkit that provides strategies for communities that have been or may be affected by gentrification
  • Explore community projects that are working with these issues on a daily basis

Walkability and Walk10Blocks

The surveys in the Walk10Blocks app include questions on walkability. Data collected from these questions will help users recognize and understand their own physical activity levels and sedentary behaviour and create awareness about neighbourhood resources.

The Walkability Index

The University of British Columbia’s (UBC) School of Population and Public Health have developed a Walkability Index, a resource tool used to measure and visualize walkability. According to the department, walkability is “largely a function of the proximity and connectivity between destinations, or the degree to which we can travel directly between places where we live, work and play.” Different characteristics of walkable neighbourhoods will support different types of transportation method, such as taking public transit or cycling. These measures can capture the nuances of proximity and connectivity as they relate to travel and health outcomes and help inform land use and transportation planning, policy, and investment decisions.

Below is the description of the Walkability Index from UBC’s website:

The WALKABILITY INDEX includes four components that capture differences in the physical environment:

  • Residential density is the number of residential units per acre within a neighbourhood. A higher value indicates that more people live in the area.
  • Commercial density (also called Retail Floor Area Ratio) is the amount of area designated for commercial use within a neighbourhood. A higher value indicates that more businesses, restaurants, retail shops and other commercial uses are located in the area.
  • Land use mix is the degree of mixing of different types of land uses (such as residential, commercial, entertainment, and office development) in a specific area. A higher value indicates a more even distribution of land between the different types of land uses.
  • Street connectivity is measured by the number of street intersections in a neighbourhood. A higher value indicates more intersections and a greater degree of connectivity enabling more direct travel between two points using existing streets and pathways.

These components all play a role in shaping the walkability of our neighbourhoods, separately or in combination. Data from these four components are combined into a composite value of overall walkability to measure the physical aspects of the environment. The standard walkability index for each neighbourhood is expressed as a unitless number. This is useful in relative terms: the higher the number, the more walkable a neighbourhood is based on the indicators used.

CBC’s The Early Edition interviews Cheryl Koehn about the Walk10Blocks app

The Walk10Blocks app was featured on CBC Radio One’s The Early Edition in Vancouver. Our team would like to extend a warm thank you to Rick Cluff and his production team for the opportunity to promote our app to improve brain and joint health. You can listen to the interview by clicking on the play button. Please fast forward to 59 minutes and 20 seconds to listen to the interview.

Researcher-consumer-patient group collaboration facilitates knowledge translation

The Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute published a news article about the Walk10Blocks app, commenting how researcher-consumer-patient group collaboration can facilitate knowledge translation. The Walk10Blocks team thanks the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute and other groups for sharing the Walk10Blocks app with their network.

Below is an excerpt of the article:

Researcher-consumer-patient Group Collaboration Facilitates Knowledge Translation

A man and a woman on their phone for Walk10Blocks app
Walk10Blocks helps get sedentary people moving.

The development process behind a new app to help sedentary people get moving shows how unique partnerships between researchers, consumers, and patient groups can lead to innovative health research. Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute (VCHRI) scientists Dr. Linda Li and Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose credit the collaboration between themselves and consumer and patient groups, including Arthritis Consumer Experts, the Alzheimer Society of B.C., and CARP (the Canadian Association of Retired Persons), for the development of the Walk10Blocks app.

Dr. Linda Li, professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of British Columbia and Canada Research Chair in Patient-Oriented Knowledge Translation at UBC and Arthritis Research Canada. 

“We’re very proud of this collaboration. It’s a perfect example of how researchers getting together with patient and public groups can come up with innovative ideas and actually make things happen,” says Dr. Li.

“I’ve built apps before for other research projects and it usually takes a very long time. Walk10Blocks only took one year from conception to testing launch in the community. When consumer and patient groups are involved–they know what works and they’re really driven to get things done fast and done right.”

Walk10Blocks is the first app designed specifically to help adults get over the hurdle of starting regular physical activity by encouraging them to walk 10 blocks a day (or about one kilometre per day), which according to research may help delay or minimize risk of dementia and improve cardiovascular and joint health over time. 

Walk10Blocks, which is currently available for free on iTunes, can be installed on an iPhone 5S or above. The app uses the phone’s core motion sensor to collect data about a person’s movement activity. The app converts this activity into a walking log, which tracks the distance travelled throughout the day and how many theoretical city blocks have been covered. The goal is to encourage sedentary people to walk at least 10 blocks per day. The app offers motivating, friendly alerts, has easy-to-read measurements, helps set reasonable walking goals, and awards badges for meeting goals.

By downloading the app, Walk10Blocks participants have also agreed to take part in an innovative research study that uses the app to collect data through surveys. Information gathered for the study includes patients’ fatigue, pain, mood, stress, and walk ratings to give researchers a better understanding of what individuals’ walking opportunities look like. The study also aims to help users recognize and understand their own physical activity levels and sedentary behaviour, create awareness about neighbourhood resources, and determine the overall feasibility of the app.

Development of the app started with one of Drs. Li and Liu-Ambrose’s research groups consulting with patient groups and receiving a grant from the Improving Cognitive and Joint Health Network (ICON), a Canadian Institutes of Health Research knowledge translation catalyst network.

“What we heard loud and clear through our consultations was a desire for more efficient, effective use of what we know about physical activity and its health benefits in terms of managing diseases, especially for people whose health may worsen without it.”

Early on, the groups met with Dr. Liu-Ambrose, researcher at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health and the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility, who shared with them current evidence with relation to exercise and cognitive function. According to Dr. Li, the group was most interested in findings from a nine-year observational study in the U.S. that showed that walking approximately 10 city-sized blocks results in better cognition and better brains.

“That specific information had our consumer groups almost jumping for joy because to them it was finally something concrete that could be used and brought back to stakeholder groups as the minimum amount of physical activity you needed to do for positive effect,” according to Dr. Li.

Dr. Liu-Ambrose, who is also Canada Research Chair in Physical Activity, Mobility, and Cognitive Neuroscience, says the group got quite motivated by the idea that you don’t necessarily need to run a marathon to have a positive impact on brain health. “This led to the concept of the app and Cheryl Koehn, president of Arthritis Consumer Experts and head of our arthritis patient group, really has been the driving force behind it.”

“The evidence is accumulating to suggest that exercise is beneficial–but where there is a void is how to put it into action. The app is a bit of that component,” she adds. “When everyone has a common goal and shared interests, I think that’s when we make good progress.”

“And so in many ways, recommending regular activities, such as moderately paced walking, seems to be a pretty reasonable approach for promoting physical and cognitive health over the lifespan.”