Presentation at the 2015 Active Living Research Annual Conference.
Local policymakers can support land use policies that encourage active living . Previous research has examined the motivation of local officials for participating in the development, adoption, and implementation of policies supportive of physical activity, particularly land use policies [2-5]. However, most studies only provide insight on the intrapersonal motivations for local policymakers to be engaged in land use policies, and not the contextual factors that may also impact policy participation.
The purpose of this study was to explore individual- and city-level predictors of involvement in land use policies supportive of active living among local policymakers.
In 2012, a cross-sectional survey was administered online to elected and appointed officials in urban areas with ≥50,000 residents. Recruitment targeted 94 communities in CO, GA, HI, KS, MA, MO, NC, and WV. The survey was developed and tested by Goins and colleagues and assessed the perceived attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of municipal officials, with respect to built environment public policies.4 For this study, the dependent variable was participation in the development, adoption, or implementation of a municipal land use policy to increase mixed use, density, street connectivity, or pedestrian or bicycle access (yes/no). Two questions asked about perceived importance of physical activity and livability issues in their day-to-day job responsibilities using a 5-point scale. Two questions asked about perceived resident support of local government action to address physical activity and livability issues using a 5-point scale. Participants also indicated whether they lived in the city in which they worked (yes/no). City-level variables were collected from 2010 U.S. Census Data and included percentage of commuters by public transit, bicycle, and walking . A two-level hierarchical logistic regression model was developed to identify individual (Level-1) and city (Level-2) characteristics associated with municipal officials’ involvement in a local land use policy supportive of active living using R. The following multilevel model building approach was used: A null model for the binary outcome was fit to calculate the intraclass correlation coefficient. Second, Level-1 predictors were added to the logistic regression model as fixed effects. Third, Level-2 predictors were added simultaneously as fixed effects to the model with Level-1 predictors. The addition of each block of variables was evaluated using the Akaike Information Criterion (AIC).
463 individuals responded (response rate=26%). After excluding subjects with missing data for workplace zip code, 413 individuals representing 83 municipalities were included in the analyses. Participants were mostly male (70%), White (78%), had a college degree or higher (92%), and lived in the city where they worked (78%). Higher perceived importance of livability issues to job responsibilities was positively associated with land use policy participation (OR=1.81, 95% CI=0.33, 0.86). Participants residing in the city where they worked were 1.88 times more likely to participate in a land use policy supporting active living than those not living near their workplace. Among the city-level variables assessed, for every 1-percent increase in the city-level bicycling rate, the odds of participation in a land use policy significantly increased by a factor of 1.48 (95% CI=0.08, 0.71).
Our study resulted in several important findings. Higher perceived importance of livability issues to job responsibilities was positively associated with land use policy engagement. Thus, it may be beneficial for public health professionals to frame land use policies supportive of physical activity in terms of livability. Second, participants representing cities with a higher percentage of bicycle commuters were more likely to participate in a land use policy. Although not a measure of public support, this might suggest that local policymakers may be more likely to engage in a land use policy in cities where residents are supportive of bicycling. The current study has limitations. Policy development, adoption, and implementation were not assessed as separate policy activities, which represents an area of future research. The study response rate was low, the cross-sectional data collected does not allow causal inference, and data were self-reported. City-level predictors represented walking, bicycling, and public transportation rates only for employed individuals commuting to and from work, not for recreation. However, this is one of the first studies to apply multilevel approaches to examine factors associated with land use policy involvement of municipal officials.
These findings could be used to identify specific leverage points for land use policy advocacy at the local level and to inform opportunities for increasing involvement in land use policy decisions among local policymakers. Land use policy issues framed within the context of livability concerns may encourage local policymakers to become more engaged in these types of policies. Given that local policymakers representing cities with a higher proportion of bicyclist commuters were more likely to engage in land use policies, advocacy should also target communities where bicycling levels may not be as high. Further exploration of the broader contextual factors influencing the development, adoption, and implementation of policies supportive of active living is needed.
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US Bureau of the Census. Commuting characteristics by sex, ACS Data from 2006-2010.
Support / Funding Source
This study was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Cooperative Agreement Number U48/DP001903 from the CDC, Prevention Research Centers Program, Special Interest Project 9-09, and Physical Activity Policy Research Network.