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Keywords:

  • health disparities;
  • neighborhoods;
  • socioeconomic factors;
  • vulnerable populations

Abstract

Objectives

The purpose of this research was to determine the impact of two neighborhood walkability (the extent to which the built environment is pedestrian friendly) metrics on health outcomes of women living in low-income urban neighborhoods, both before and after accounting for individual and neighborhood factors.

Design and Sample

A cross-sectional, retrospective design was used. The sample of 1800 low-income women was drawn from Welfare, Children and Families: A Three-City Study (a study of low-income women from three U.S. cities).

Measures

Using multilevel modeling and geographic information systems, the study sought to determine the effect of distance to public transportation and residential density on health status, mental health symptoms, and health-related limitations.

Results

No significant relationship was found between the two walkability metrics and health outcomes. Instead, neighborhood problems that affect crime and safety impacted health status and mental health symptoms.

Conclusions

As cities make changes to the built environment with the hope of affecting residents' health outcomes, public health nurses need to be aware that changing walkability characteristics in a neighborhood may not affect the health of residents of high crime, low-income neighborhoods. Without first addressing neighborhood crime, efforts to improve walkability in low-income neighborhoods may fail.