The Analytic and Checklist Audit Tools are used to understand the relationships between street-scale environments and rates of physical activity. Features of the street-scale environment include types of destinations, sidewalk quality, presence of litter and graffiti, presence of trees, availability of public transit, and types of recreational destinations.
Background: To understand the relationships between street-scale environments and rates of physical activity, it is crucial to develop reliable methods of measurement. Community audits are commonly used to test the walkability and bikability of environments, yet few have been tested for reliability.
Methods: Audit tools were collected from the peer-reviewed literature, the Internet, and via experts from a variety of backgrounds. Two versions of an audit instrument were created: an analytic (with Likert scale and ordinal response choices) and a checklist (with dichotomous response choices) audit tool. Audits were conducted in St. Louis, Missouri for 147 street segments, representing both higher income and lower income neighborhoods. The same segments were re-audited y different individuals.
Results: Characteristics of the physical environment varied considerably across lower and higher income segments. For example in the checklist audit, physical disorder was present for 67 segments in lower income segments compared with 0 segments in higher income segments. Among 8 questions from each audit tool designed to broadly capture environmental attributes, most had moderate to poor agreement. Most of the transportation and land use items demonstrated high (substantial or perfect) agreement, while the aesthetics and social environment items showed reliability in the moderate to poor range.
Conclusions: A community audit tool can be relatively easy and quick to administer and for many domains, is reliable. Our audit tools appear particularly well suited for capturing elements in the transportation and land use environments. More research is needed to determine the association between audit-derived indicators and leisure time and transportation physical activity behavior.