Presentation at the 2015 Active Living Research Annual Conference.
The use of technology is permeating all strata of our global population. This presents exciting opportunities to engage previously marginalized populations in technology driven research activities. This presentation will describe how an innovative technology application (the Stanford Healthy Neighborhood Discovery Tool (the Discovery Tool) and a citizen scientist approach have been used in a variety of community based interventions to build capacity for improving neighborhood environments that better support healthy lifestyles. An important component of this work has been empowering the citizen scientists to communicate with key public and private sector partners about the neighborhood level barriers and facilitators that impact their ability to be physically active and eat healthfully to inform potential solutions.
This presentation will describe the lessons learned in adapting the Discovery Tool and the citizen scientist approach for use in different locations and contexts.
The Discovery Tool is a wireless neighborhood environmental assessment application that enables citizen scientists to document features of their built environments (via photographs and audio narratives) that impact their opportunities to be physically active and eat healthfully. The citizen scientists not only gather the data, but also meet collectively to review their images and audio narratives and prioritize issues to address. They receive advocacy training to equip them to communicate their findings to public and private sector partners with whom they can work to achieve positive change. This model has been successfully adapted for various settings. The challenges and opportunities in disseminating this approach will be discussed.
To date this approach has been used by diverse communities to capture key environmental features that affect healthy lifestyles, and, importantly, has been the catalyst for a number of neighborhood improvements: US built environments; Ethnically diverse, low income, older adults in East Palo Alto, CA have successfully engaged with local policy makers and contributed to the decision to allocate significant government dollars for built environment improvements and the inclusion of public health in the city’s general plan.; The concerns expressed by Latino adolescents and older adult immigrants residents of North Fair Oaks, CA have spurred the formation of a Community Advisory Board to address the issue of illegal dumping and trash that impede walking in the neighborhood; Older adult citizen scientists in rural up state New York have identified the specific challenges they encounter being physically active and eating healthfully in rural environments; International built environment; Older adult citizen scientists from different socio-cultural neighborhoods in Israel (wealthy vs. poor and predominantly Jewish vs. Arab) have identified major differences in barriers and facilitators of physical activity. Adolescent and older adult citizen scientists from different socio-economic neighborhoods in Mexico have successfully used the Discovery Tool to identify neighborhood features that impact physical activity, however, the citizen scientist approach requires adaptation to the Mexican setting to accommodate cultural differences in the way local policy and decision makers interact with their constituents. US food environments; Shoppers at an urban Farmer’s Market in Phoenix, AZ identified environmental features that enhanced or detracted from their shopping experience. This information can be used to develop targeted interventions and social marketing strategies to potentially increase the utilization of farmer’s markets, with accompanying nutritional and economic benefits. Ethnically diverse, low income, older adults in Daly City and South San Francisco, CA have connected with local policy makers and non profit service organizations to address identified barriers to accessing healthful nutrition that include transportation and knowledge about supplemental nutrition programs.
The Discovery Tool and the citizen scientist approach have successfully been used in a wide range of settings to empower community residents to identify neighborhood features that impact their ability to lead healthy, active lifestyles. An important component of this research is to connect the citizen scientists with representatives of the local public and private sectors to generate policy level changes.
This approach is potentially cost effective and harnesses the power of both citizen scientists and technology. There is the potential to use this approach in a broad range of locations, contexts and target populations, including those who are technology naive and of low socio-economic status. Planned future applications of this technology-driven citizen scientist approach include: assessing the effect of open street programs such as Sunday Streets in San Francisco and ciclovias in Columbia and Chile on community residents; harnessing the creativity and energy of school children to assess barriers and enablers of healthier food choices at school; and empowering older adults in South Africa and Brazil to become part of the solution to building healthier communities.
Support / Funding Source
Clinical Translational Science Award Seed Grant awarded through the Stanford University Office of Community Health Center for Innovation in Global Health, Stanford University Get Healthy San Mateo County Community Implementation Grant At the time this study was conducted Drs Winter and Sheats were supported by US Public Health Service grant 5T32L007034 from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.