Examining the Influence of a New Light Rail Line on the Health of a Demographically Diverse and Understudied Population within the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area: A Protocol for a Natural Experiment Study

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018 Feb 13;15(2):333. doi: 10.3390/ijerph15020333.

Abstract

Approximately two-thirds of adults and youth in Prince George's County, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C. are overweight or obese and less than half are achieving daily physical activity recommendations. Active transportation (AT), such as walking, biking or using public transportation (PT), is a strategic pathway to improving physical activity levels and thus reducing excess weight. Utilizing an expansion of the Washington, D.C. area transportation system with a new light rail line, the Purple Line Outcomes on Transportation (PLOT) Study will exam pre- and post-Purple Line PT use, AT behaviors and attitudes and physical activity among Prince George's County adults and youth. The PLOT Study will take advantage of this natural experiment in an area enduring significant racial/ethnic and gender-based overweight or obesity and physical inactivity disparities. While similar natural experiments on AT have been conducted in other U.S. cities, those studies lacked diverse and representative samples. To effectively evaluate these physical activity outcomes among this population, efforts will be used to recruit African American and Latino populations, the first and second most common racial/ethnic groups in Prince George's County. Finally, the PLOT Study will also examine how contextual effects (e.g., neighborhood built environment) impact PT, AT and physical activity.

Keywords: active transportation; built environment; light rail; natural experiment; sense of community.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • African Americans
  • Attitude to Health / ethnology*
  • District of Columbia
  • Health Behavior / ethnology*
  • Health Surveys
  • Hispanic Americans
  • Humans
  • Maryland
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Railroads / statistics & numerical data*
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Transportation / statistics & numerical data