Regional planning agencies across the U.S. have begun to include goals and objectives that promote public health into their regional transportation plans. Both “active transportation” and “sustainable communities” are recommended as primary policies by regional planning agencies to alleviate public health issues. Obesity is a common health target of these policies. With the common assumption being that active transportation and sustainable community strategies (e.g., sidewalks and bike lane improvements, increasing residential density and diversity, and enhancement of transit access and services) will encourage people to walk or bike more, leading to healthier weight and thus better health overall. Since public health is a new topic in regional planning, it is important to develop a comprehensive methodology to estimate policy impact of different land use and transportation scenarios.
This study is to 1) analyze the impact of land use and transportation policies on obesity, 2) develop a model that estimates the level of obesity, and 3) using the calibrated model developed in this study to evaluate health impact from different scenarios . Using 2011 Los Angeles County Health Survey and a comprehensive socioeconomic/land use/transportation database developed by Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), we plan to conduct an ordered probit model to estimate the probability of an individual being “Normal”, “Overweight”, or “Obese”. Five groups of explanatory variables will be used in the model: individual socioeconomic characteristics, individual health behavior, neighborhood quality and safety, neighborhood land use, and neighborhood active transportation infrastructure and built environment characteristics.
We expect the model will show significant linkage between obesity and land use/active transportation infrastructure/built environment characteristics. Communities with higher densities, mixed land use, better street connectivity and bike lane infrastructure, or closeness to transit services will encourage residents to walk or bike for accessing their daily activities, and therefore residents living in this type of community can improve their health. This study will contribute a comprehensive approach for planning and public health agencies to analyze the impact on public health by active transportation plan, and land use strategies.