Spatial heterogeneity of the relationships between environmental characteristics and active commuting: towards a locally varying social ecological model.

Int J Health Geogr. 2015 25;14:12

Feuillet T, Charreire H, Menai M, Salze P, Simon C, Dugas J, Hercberg S, Andreeva VA, Enaux C, Weber C, Oppert JM1.

According to the social ecological model of health-related behaviors, it is now well accepted that environmental factors influence habitual physical activity. Most previous studies on physical activity determinants have assumed spatial homogeneity across the study area, i.e. that the association between the environment and physical activity is the same whatever the location. The main novelty of our study was to explore geographical variation in the relationships between active commuting (walking and cycling to/from work) and residential environmental characteristics.
4,164 adults from the ongoing Nutrinet-Santé web-cohort, residing in and around Paris, France, were studied using a geographically weighted Poisson regression (GWPR) model. Objective environmental variables, including both the built and the socio-economic characteristics around the place of residence of individuals, were assessed by GIS-based measures. Perceived environmental factors (index including safety, aesthetics, and pollution) were reported by questionnaires.
Our results show that the influence of the overall neighborhood environment appeared to be more pronounced in the suburban southern part of the study area (Val-de-Marne) compared to Paris inner city, whereas more complex patterns were found elsewhere. Active commuting was positively associated with the built environment only in the southern and northeastern parts of the study area, whereas positive associations with the socio-economic environment were found only in some specific locations in the southern and northern parts of the study area. Similar local variations were observed for the perceived environmental variables.
These results suggest that: (i) when applied to active commuting, the social ecological conceptual framework should be locally nuanced, and (ii) local rather than global targeting of public health policies might be more efficient in promoting active commuting.