Rehabbing Inner City Buildings Reduces Crime

rehabbing inner city buildings

Photo credit: PLOS One

Internal Advisory Board member Charles Branas, PhD., was part of a team of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania that was the first to develop a study about the effects of building remediation on crime and violence in surrounding areas. The study began after Philadelphia required building owners to renew the outside of their buildings in 2011.

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Children’s Physical Activity Related to Neighborhood Features

A new study shows neighborhood factors that limit the amount of physical activity children get outside of school. The research, conducted by UPenn PRC Director Karen Glanz and others, examined two urban regions in the United States (San Diego and Seattle). They found that safety and walkability affect the amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) that children participate in outside of school. Other important factors include parents’ views on transit access, traffic safety, and crime in their respective neighborhoods. The United States government proposes that 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity is necessary for children age six to eleven. However, while children within these age groups do end up achieving this amount of activity, there is, unfortunately, a steep drop in MVPA once these children reach adolescence, so investigators emphasize the importance of studying factors that affect children and adolescents’ MVPA.

Acknowledging and changing the multitude of factors that influence children’s MVPA may be the key to increasing healthy behaviors, such as physical activity, outside of school. Research that identifies factors that support higher MVPA can also inform policy-makers when zoning laws come into question.

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Kurka J, Adams M, Todd M, Colburn T, Sallis J, Cain K, Glanz K, Frank L, Saelens B. Patterns of neighborhood environment attributes in relation to children’s physical activity. Health & Place, July 2015, 34:164-170.


Qualitative Assessments and Mapping Allow Researchers to Identify Asthmatic Triggers

A new study based on qualitative research conducted in West Philadelphia finds that the main triggers for asthma are stress, environmental irritants, and environmental allergens. The team of researchers, which included UPenn PRC advisory board member Frances Barg, UPenn PRC director Karen Glanz, and UPenn PRC project manager Sarah Green, involved qualitative interviews and GIS mapping to categorize a variety of influences that influence asthma events in smaller sub-sections of West Philadelphia, which are primarily low-income and African American. By using a mixed-methods procedure, the researchers were able to more fully understand and define the components of “stress,” including aggravated assault and theft, in the study of asthma.

By combining the techniques of “free-list” interviews (interviews in which participants are asked to list the things that can trigger their asthma) with mapping, researchers could better understand asthma triggers in an urban, mostly minority environment. The combination of these qualitative study methods has a positive implication for the outcomes of community-based research. It allows for a body of researchers and community members to create a network of information that can allow for a better understanding of environmental triggers based on geography. This information can ultimately lead to more effective control of asthma in a variety of communities.

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Keddem S, Barg F, Glanz F, Jackson T, Green S, George M. Mapping the urban asthma experience: Using qualitative GIS to understand contextual factors affecting asthma control. Social Science & Medicine, July 2015, 140:9-17.