Current Research

This study investigates the relationship between the built environment and chronic disease and mental health in Metro Vancouver. Few studies to date have examined systematic relationships between built environment characteristics, activity patterns, obesity, and chronic disease. The proposed study aims to incorporate health into local and regional policy framework by examining the multiple pathways linking the built environment, activity patterns, chronic disease, and mental health. This study will spatially link existing detailed built environment data developed by the Health and Community Design Lab at UBC and a wide range of health-related data from the My Health, My Community Survey in the greater Vancouver region. In addition, this study builds on an existing study (“Health Monetization Project”) funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) to monetize the health care cost savings of living in a more walkable built environment. The results of this study will offer insights into potential modifications to the built environment through policy and planning that will promote quality of life and reduce the economic burden of disease in the Vancouver region.

The Health and Community Design Lab conducted a comprehensive literature review of pre-post studies of new transit investments around the world. This work will provide groundwork for conducting a study to evaluate the effects of light rail investment along Vancouver’s Broadway Corridor. The HCDL is collaborating with a number of organizations to catalyze research on the health impacts of a rapid transit extension along this Corridor. The literature review will provide a review of:  the measures developed to evaluate changes in the built environment; the methods used to measure the impacts on human health of changes in the built environment; and, the populations sampled and sampling frames.

The Health and Community Design Lab, in collaboration with Metro Vancouver, is developing a 2016 parcel level built environment database at the postal code scale.  This database will be patterned after and consistent with the 2006 and 2011 walkability databases previously developed by the HCDL. This new database will be at a scale that supports Metro Vancouver’s ability to create performance measures to help track achievement of the Regional Growth Strategy, update regional planning models and forecasts, and incorporate pedestrian-scale built environment features into the frequent transit network (FTN) database.  It will comprise an array of performance measures that can be used to track compliance with the goals and objectives within in the Regional Growth Strategy and will leverage funding from research projects currently funded in the Metro Vancouver region and underway at UBC.  Figure 1 shows the 2011 Metro Vancouver Walkability Surface.

The CHANGE (Changes in Health, Activity, and Nutrition across Geographic Environments) study documents and evaluates changes in travel patterns, physical activity levels, eating, and built environment factors related to health before and after families move within Metro Vancouver. 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 cardiovascular disease, stroke, and respiratory function. 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.

This Comox study evaluates the travel, health, and social activity impacts of the City of Vancouver’s Comox-Helmcken Greenway Improvements in the downtown core. The study employed a quasi-experimental research design, allowing the study to evaluate changes before and after an intervention (construction of the Greenway) in comparison to a control group that did not receive the intervention.

The NEWPATH Travel Data Assessment involved the analysis of data that formed part of the Region of Waterloo Active Transportation Plan. Built environment data included transportation systems information across all modes of travel including roadway, transit, and existing pedestrian and cycling investments.  These datasets provided unique evidence that which helped inform the plan development process and the development of tools to help prioritize the types and locations of future investments within the Region.

The Health Monetization project investigates the relationship between the built environment and annual health care utilization costs in the Vancouver metropolitan region. The study leverages data from BC Generations Project on a cohort of 16,300 adults 35 to 69 years of age living in the Lower Mainland region of British Columbia. Although the BC GEN project is a longitudinal study, this study uses the baseline data which were collected between 2009 and 2015. This study also uses data from Population Data BC (PopData BC) which houses individual medical and billing records (e.g. prescriptions, medical services, and hospital visits). The PopData are linked to the BC Generation data to allow direct estimation of health care expenditure by individual. We use both cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses to examine the causal relationship between the built environment features, health behaviour, and health-related outcomes. Health care costs will be directly assessed from individual medical expenses provided by the PopData BC.