Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Urban design


To describe variability in the burden of firearm violence by race, income, and place in an urban context.

Concepts: Pennsylvania, Urban design, Philadelphia


Evidence-based metrics are needed to inform urban policy to create healthy walkable communities. Most active living research has developed metrics of the environment around residential addresses, ignoring other important walking locations. Therefore, this study examined: metrics for built environment features surrounding local shopping centres, (known in Melbourne, Australia as neighbourhood activity centres (NACs) which are typically anchored by a supermarket); the association between NACs and transport walking; and, policy compliance for supermarket provision.

Concepts: Retailing, Walkability, Walking, Sustainability, Urban studies and planning, Urban studies and planning terminology, Natural environment, Urban design


There is wide agreement that there is a lack of attention to health in municipal environmental policy-making, such as urban planning and regeneration. Explanations for this include differing professional norms between health and urban environment professionals, system complexity and limited evidence for causality between attributes of the built environment and health outcomes. Data from urban health indicator (UHI) tools are potentially a valuable form of evidence for local government policy and decision-makers. Although many UHI tools have been specifically developed to inform policy, there is poor understanding of how they are used. This study aims to identify the nature and characteristics of UHI tools and their use by municipal built environment policy and decision-makers.

Concepts: Government, Town, Urban decay, Urban design, Urban planning, Policy, Natural environment, City


To be able to curb the global pandemic of physical inactivity and the associated 5.3 million deaths per year, we need to understand the basic principles that govern physical activity. However, there is a lack of large-scale measurements of physical activity patterns across free-living populations worldwide. Here we leverage the wide usage of smartphones with built-in accelerometry to measure physical activity at the global scale. We study a dataset consisting of 68 million days of physical activity for 717,527 people, giving us a window into activity in 111 countries across the globe. We find inequality in how activity is distributed within countries and that this inequality is a better predictor of obesity prevalence in the population than average activity volume. Reduced activity in females contributes to a large portion of the observed activity inequality. Aspects of the built environment, such as the walkability of a city, are associated with a smaller gender gap in activity and lower activity inequality. In more walkable cities, activity is greater throughout the day and throughout the week, across age, gender, and body mass index (BMI) groups, with the greatest increases in activity found for females. Our findings have implications for global public health policy and urban planning and highlight the role of activity inequality and the built environment in improving physical activity and health.

Concepts: Health economics, Medicine, Global, Universal health care, Pandemic, Urban design, Obesity, Body mass index


The design of suburban communities encourages car dependency and discourages walking, characteristics that have been implicated in the rise of obesity. Walkability measures have been developed to capture these features of urban built environments. Our objective was to examine the individual and combined associations of residential density and the presence of walkable destinations, two of the most commonly used and potentially modifiable components of walkability measures, with transportation, overweight, obesity, and diabetes. We examined associations between a previously published walkability measure and transportation behaviors and health outcomes in Toronto, Canada, a city of 2.6 million people in 2011. Data sources included the Canada census, a transportation survey, a national health survey and a validated administrative diabetes database. We depicted interactions between residential density and the availability of walkable destinations graphically and examined them statistically using general linear modeling. Individuals living in more walkable areas were more than twice as likely to walk, bicycle or use public transit and were significantly less likely to drive or own a vehicle compared with those living in less walkable areas. Individuals in less walkable areas were up to one-third more likely to be obese or to have diabetes. Residential density and the availability of walkable destinations were each significantly associated with transportation and health outcomes. The combination of high levels of both measures was associated with the highest levels of walking or bicycling (p<0.0001) and public transit use (p<0.0026) and the lowest levels of automobile trips (p<0.0001), and diabetes prevalence (p<0.0001). We conclude that both residential density and the availability of walkable destinations are good measures of urban walkability and can be recommended for use by policy-makers, planners and public health officials. In our setting, the combination of both factors provided additional explanatory power.

Concepts: Childhood obesity, Nutrition, Urban design, Pedestrian, Obesity, Automobile, Walking, Sustainable transport


Although the scale of impending urbanization is well-acknowledged, we have a limited understanding of how urban forms will change and what their impact will be on building energy use. Using both top-down and bottom-up approaches and scenarios, we examine building energy use for heating and cooling. Globally, the energy use for heating and cooling by the middle of the century will be between 45 and 59 exajoules per year (corresponding to an increase of 7-40% since 2010). Most of this variability is due to the uncertainty in future urban densities of rapidly growing cities in Asia and particularly China. Dense urban development leads to less urban energy use overall. Waiting to retrofit the existing built environment until markets are ready in about 5 years to widely deploy the most advanced renovation technologies leads to more savings in building energy use. Potential for savings in energy use is greatest in China when coupled with efficiency gains. Advanced efficiency makes the least difference compared with the business-as-usual scenario in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa but significantly contributes to energy savings in North America and Europe. Systemic efforts that focus on both urban form, of which urban density is an indicator, and energy-efficient technologies, but that also account for potential co-benefits and trade-offs with human well-being can contribute to both local and global sustainability. Particularly in growing cities in the developing world, such efforts can improve the well-being of billions of urban residents and contribute to mitigating climate change by reducing energy use in urban areas.

Concepts: Urban studies and planning, Density, Urban design, Asia, City, Population density, Sustainability, Urban area


BACKGROUND: Researchers in environmental psychology, health studies and urban design are interested in the relationship between the environment, behaviour settings and emotions. In particular, happiness, or the presence of positive emotional mindsets, broadens an individual’s thought-action repertoire with positive benefits to physical and intellectual activities, and to social and psychological resources. This occurs through play, exploration or similar activities. In addition, a body of restorative literature focuses on the potential benefits to emotional recovery from stress offered by green space and ‘soft fascination’. However, access to the cortical correlates of emotional states of a person actively engaged within an environment has not been possible until recently. This study investigates the use of mobile electroencephalography (EEG) as a method to record and analyse the emotional experience of a group of walkers in three types of urban environment including a green space setting. METHODS: Using Emotiv EPOC, a low-cost mobile EEG recorder, participants took part in a 25 min walk through three different areas of Edinburgh. The areas (of approximately equal length) were labelled zone 1 (urban shopping street), zone 2 (path through green space) and zone 3 (street in a busy commercial district). The equipment provided continuous recordings from five channels, labelled excitement (short-term), frustration, engagement, long-term excitement (or arousal) and meditation. RESULTS: A new form of high-dimensional correlated component logistic regression analysis showed evidence of lower frustration, engagement and arousal, and higher meditation when moving into the green space zone; and higher engagement when moving out of it. CONCLUSIONS: Systematic differences in EEG recordings were found between three urban areas in line with restoration theory. This has implications for promoting urban green space as a mood-enhancing environment for walking or for other forms of physical or reflective activity.

Concepts: Environment, Urban area, Urban design, Psychology, Natural environment, Electroencephalography, Environmental psychology, Emotion


Zika virus transmission dynamics in urban environments follow a complex spatiotemporal pattern that appears unpredictable and barely related to high mosquito density areas. In this context, human activity patterns likely have a major role in Zika transmission dynamics. This paper examines the effect of host variability in the amount of time spent outdoors on Zika epidemiology in an urban environment.

Concepts: Urban area, Environment, Pattern, Urban design, Mathematics, Epidemiology, Environmental science, Natural environment


Intersectoral collaboration (ISC) is important in the health field because the complexity of determinants of health makes it difficult for one institution to resolve all health issues. Promotion of physical activity can especially benefit from a multi-sectoral approach. Despite so much emphasis on its importance in both primary health and health promotion, ISC has been underachieved in the field. This study aimed to examine the characteristics and level of ISC among physical activity programs in Healthy Cities as compared to non-Healthy Cities. I conducted a postal survey where 24 people from Healthy Cities and 72 people from non-Healthy Cities participated. The survey included questions to measure the level of ISC as well as to determine ISC partners and activities. Among the entire 393 physical activity programs, 336 (85.5%) had some kind of collaboration with one or more partners. The percentage having one or more partners was greater in Healthy Cities than in non-Healthy Cities. However, there were no statistical differences between the two groups in terms of the level of ISC within a municipal organization. Collaboration activities of the other departments were mostly supportive, such as providing a venue, recruiting participants and publicizing, and other kinds of administrative support. To strengthen ISC in Korean Healthy Cities, various actions including providing a legal basis, specific and substantive supports, financial incentives, and organizational recognitions will be helpful as well as the development of partnerships with other departments in urban planning, transport, urban design, and communication.

Concepts: Health disparities, Urban decay, Public health, City, Nursing, Population health, Urban design, Urban planning


There has been considerable work done in recent years exploring the value of urban green space for health and wellbeing. Urban green spaces provide environmental benefits through their effects on negating urban heat, offsetting greenhouse gas emissions, and attenuating storm water. They also have direct health benefits by providing urban residents spaces for physical activity and social interaction, and allowing psychological restoration to take place. Consequently, there is a real need to understand the mechanisms by which these benefits accrue. Previously, much of the focus has been on the characteristics of the urban green space that are likely to influence its use, such as its accessibility, quality, facilities, attractiveness, and security. This assumes a causal relationship, when in reality the relationship is more complex and multifactorial. It is more likely that it is the functionality of the green space, be it for exercise or sociocultural activities, rather than its character, which translates to the reported benefits. Challenges exist, such as competing urban planning priorities, economic considerations, and market forces. There is thus a need for urban planning to match the health benefits sought with the needs of the community and the functionality that the urban green space will serve.

Concepts: Urban design, Carbon credit, IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, Health care, Metaphysics, Health, Climate change, Greenhouse gas