The Stanford Healthy Neighborhood Discovery Tool: a computerized tool to assess active living environments

Am J Prev Med. 2013 Apr;44(4):e41-e47. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2012.11.028.


Background: The built environment can influence physical activity, particularly among older populations with impaired mobility. Existing tools to assess environmental features associated with walkability are often cumbersome, require extensive training, and are not readily available for use by community residents.

Purpose: This project aimed to develop and evaluate the utility of a computerized, tablet-based participatory tool designed to engage older residents in identifying neighborhood elements that affect active living opportunities.

Methods: Following formative testing, the tool was used by older adults (aged ≥65 years, in 2011) to record common walking routes (tracked using built-in GPS) and geocoded audio narratives and photographs of the local neighborhood environment. Residents (N=27; 73% women; 77% with some college education; 42% used assistive devices) from three low-income communal senior housing sites used the tool while navigating their usual walking route in their neighborhood. Data were analyzed in 2012.

Results: Elements (from 464 audio narratives and photographs) identified as affecting active living were commensurate with the existing literature (e.g., sidewalk features, aesthetics, parks/playgrounds, crosswalks). However, within each housing site, the profile of environmental elements identified was distinct, reflecting the importance of granular-level information collected by the tool. Additionally, consensus among residents was reached regarding which elements affected active living opportunities.

Conclusions: This tool serves to complement other assessments and assist decision makers in consensus-building processes for environmental change.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Community-Based Participatory Research
  • Computers, Handheld*
  • Environment Design
  • Female
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Activity
  • Poverty
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Walking*