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Research Team: Dr. Larry Frank, Dr. Michael Brauer, Dr. Hugh Davies, and Dr. Jennifer Black.

Funding: Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Real Estate Foundation of BC.

CHANGE (Changes in Health, Activity, and Nutrition Across Geographic Environments) study will document and evaluate changes in travel patterns, physical activity levels, eating, and built environment factors related to health before and after families move within Metro Vancouver. Leaders in the evaluation of built environment relationships with physical activity, food choice, and environmental exposure have been assembled to work to answer the important question of how moving to a new address can change individual behaviour.

This study seeks to evaluate the presence of a causal relationship between physical features of community design, physical activity, and food choice as predictors of BMI and built environment features related to cardio-vascular disease, stroke, and respiratory function.  Exposure to air pollution is also evaluated.  The proposed study builds upon and leverages data and methods from the Border Air Quality Study which provides environmental exposure data and the multi-region SHIFT study funded by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to evaluate movers.

Project AIMS include:

  1. Measurement of changes in perceived and objectively measured built environment features in pre and post move locations;
  2. Assessment of differences in self-reported travel, food choice, social interaction and body weight and objectively measured physical activity and sedentary behavior in pre and post move locations;
  3. Evaluation of differences in exposure to traffic-related air pollution and noise in pre and post move locations; and
  4. Assessment of built environment impacts (causal) on health related outcomes across differing income groups when adjusting for preferences and attitudinal predisposition.

Research Methodology

This study is investigating how different neighbourhood design attributes influence health over time. The research team is comparing the health of people before and after they move to a new neighbourhood. The focus of this study is on diet, physical activity levels, body weight, and exposure to air and noise pollution. We will test how relationships vary across different age groups, ethnicities and income levels.

Self-reported and objectively measured physical activity and travel patterns are being collected before and after people change neighbourhoods. As part of this study, we have mapped urban design features thought to influence diet and physical activity behaviours across Metro Vancouver. We will link these data to participant information to better understand characteristics of each person’s old and new neighbourhoods. Characteristics like density, street patterns, transit service and mix of land uses will be incorporated. Models will be developed to measure the importance of these features in influencing health outcomes across different populations. The study will control for attitudes and preferences related to where people want to live and get around.

Our “before-and-after” approach is a true natural experiment. It is the first of its kind in Canada. Previous work has really only explored relationships between health and neighbourhood design at one point in time. These designs do not prove what causes variations in travel and health patterns. The study aims to collect data from the same participants at two points. The participants are completing the pre-move survey 6 weeks to 6 months before they move, and are contacted again to complete the post-move survey 6 months after they move into their new neighbourhoods.


Results from this study build on our community connections by providing valuable longitudinal evidence of relationships that to date have largely been examined cross-sectionally.  These results will provide stronger evidence of causal linkages and will provide developers, municipal planning staff and other practitioners with information on the health and environmental benefits of certain types of projects as well as opportunities to understand buyer preferences and gauge demand for new projects.

We are collecting a rich body of data on individual sociodemographics, residential preferences, eating and activity behaviours and health that we will be able to link to existing exposure databases on factors such as air pollution, noise pollution and walkability. We anticipate that our findings will demonstrate the following relationships:

  1. Increases in neighborhood walkability result in increased levels of physical activity and lower levels of sedentary time amongst adult residents when adjusting for demographic and attitudinal factors;
  2. Increased availability of healthy food options in residential environments is associated with healthier diets;
  3. Built environment factors that impact walkability also affect exposure to certain cardiovascular health risks including traffic-related air pollution and noise;
  4. Cardiovascular health benefits from increased physical activity levels outweigh negative impacts from air pollution exposure from higher levels of walkability; and
  5. Significant change in body weight will not be observed from a recent change – within a year – of residential location.

If proven, these findings will have the potential to positively impact health at the population level by informing land use and transportation planning policies that foster healthy dietary and activity behaviours and reduce harmful exposures. This will be the first study of its kind in Canada, and can be used as a template for future studies.

How does your neighbourhood impact the way you get to work, shop, eat, exercise and socialize?

We invite you to take part in a research study to help answer this important question. All participants will receive up to $50 plus a chance to win various prizes.

CHANGE (Changes in Health, Activity, and Nutrition Across Geographic Environments) study is an investigation on travel, physical activity, and eating habits of Metro Vancouver residents before and after they move to a new neighbourhood.  Your participation will help create knowledge about the effects of neighborhood design on health, an area of research that has the potential to save lives and improve quality of life for many.


MOVERS: CLICK HERE to participate and find out about eligibility.

NON-MOVERS: CLICK HERE to participate and find out about eligibility.

Participation in this study only requires you to:

  1.  Complete a short survey,
  2.  Wear a physical activity monitor (a small electronic device similar to a pedometer) for 4 days,  and
  3.  Fill out a travel diary.

Filling out the survey will take approximately 30 minutes and recording your daily travel activities (such as a trip to the grocery store) into the travel diary will take about 1 minute for each trip. Participants will be sent the survey, the travel diary, the physical activity monitor and detailed instructions for each. Participants will also receive a pre-addressed, postage paid envelope to return the completed documents.

All participants who return a consent form and complete these simple tasks will receive a $25.00 honorarium. Participation in the second phase (after-move) of the study will release a second honorarium of $25.00.

CHANGE Frequently Asked Questions.