A qualitative GIS approach to mapping urban neighborhoods with children to promote physical activity and child-friendly community planning

Wridt, P.

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Wridt, P. (2010). A qualitative GIS approach to mapping urban neighborhoods with children to promote physical activity and child-friendly community planning. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 37(1), 129–147. https://doi.org/10.1068/b35002

Children , CO , Denver , GIS , Perception , Physical Activity , Qualitative , Urban Neighborhood

As the obesity epidemic in children increases, it is important to consider the role of neighborhoods in supporting children's physical activity and healthy development, especially in low- income communities where obesity levels among children are higher than for their middle-income counterparts. I present a participatory and qualitative GIS approach to mapping children's own perceptions and use of their neighborhood for physical activity with ten and eleven year-olds growing up in a diverse low-income community in Denver, CO. Girls walk shorter distances to and use different types of community spaces for play and recreation from boys, some of which is explained by the differing environmental-socialization approaches employed by parents and carers. Children's perceptions of risk align spatially with features of the built environment, but do not correlate with reported crime. Results illustrate the utility of qualitative spatial analysis to understand relationships between children's perception, the built environment, and social factors that shape children's active transport, leisure, and recreation in their neighborhood. Children's local knowledge should be valued and solicited in community-level health and planning interventions to promote physical activity.

Main finding
The methodology is the key takeaway from this article as the specific results here are not generalizable. The author suggests that the process developed for this research could be implemented with teenagers, adults, or the elderly on a range of themes important to community development and an active lifestyle. The methodology involves community mapping, or a qualitative GIS approach, to identify the perceptions and behaviors of the children's neighborhood experiences and blend it with the language of planning. This process mapped themes that literature suggest are important to physical activity, such as: transportation methods, social networks, and perceived safety issues. Some findings suggest: the need for design interventions to improve sidewalk presence, width and connectivity; a spatial relationship between perceived and observed (parcel data) risks in the community; and that reported crimes differ from children's perceptions highlighting the importance of situated knowledge.

Description of method used in the article
The study involved a qualitative use of GIS, with children's input, using a participatory action research (PAR) approach. Participants consisted of: 5th grade students age 10-11, their teachers, paraprofessional staff, school principal, caretakers and community residents. Data collection included photography, drawing, time diaries, focus groups and cognitive mapping. These activities produced a Spanish-English language guide to the neighborhood.

Of practical use

Organising categories

Other or N/A
Case Study
Urban Planning
Physical types
Other Sidewalks