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Communities of Concern

Research Project:
Neighborhood Walkability and Cardiometabolic Disease in Central TX

University: Texas State University

Principal Investigator(s): Tiankai Wang

Project Description:

The term walkability refers to a measure of how conducive the built environment is to walking and can be used to predict levels of human physical activity and active travel (Frank et al., 2006) Walkability is increasingly valued for two major reasons. Firstly, walking substantially benefits the physical and mental health of people, as research has shown that walking can reduce rates of obesity (Frank et al., 2004; Giles-Corti, Macintyre, Clarkson, Pikora, & Donovan, 2003; Pucher, Buehler, Bassett, & Dannenberg, 2010), diabetes (Pucher et al., 2010), and other chronic diseases and limit the rising costs of health care (Lee & Buchner, 2008). Secondly, a walkable city promotes the balanced development of urban areas and public services, provides people with better places to live, and improves levels of neighborhood satisfaction (Lee et al., 2017).

Neighborhood walkability is also significantly related to the risk for cardiometabolic disease including obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease (Meline, Chaix, Pannieret, et al, 2017; Chandrabose, Cerin, Mavoa, et al. 2019). A growing body of research demonstrates that the physical environment plays an important role in supporting an active lifestyle through the collective availability of activity-friendly neighborhood characteristics (i.e., walkability). Furthermore, cardiometabolic disease is more serious in vulnerable populations, while there are over 430,000 vulnerable populations in Austin, TX. Therefore, improving walkability in the Austin area can contribute to a reduction in the risk of cardiometabolic diseases within this population. Our research question is whether there is an association between walkability and the rate of cardiometabolic disease in central Texas?

The Walkability Framework (Zuniga-Teran et al. 2015)

Figure 1: The Walkability Framework (Zuniga-Teran et al. 2015)

US DOT Priorities:

By promoting walkability, the project encourages sustainable transportation practices, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and addressing health disparities, particularly in vulnerable populations. It engages in transformative research by investigating the link between walkability and cardiometabolic diseases in Central Texas, potentially influencing urban planning and transportation policies. Ultimately, the project exemplifies how intersecting fields of transportation, urban planning, and public health can simultaneously improve the environment, public health, and community well-being.


This study will focus on Austin, Texas, which adopted a robust Complete Streets Policy in 2014, however, its’ walk score is mediocre, being the 30th most walkable large city in the U.S.

I plan to examine the association between neighborhood walkability and cardiometabolic disease in the Austin area. I will use the National Walkability Index created by the Environmental Protection Agency to measure neighborhood walkability and access the cardiometabolic disease data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). I will describe the trends of the above data and conduct related regression analyses.


I expect that there is a positive correlation between higher levels of neighborhood walkability and a reduced prevalence of cardiometabolic diseases among residents.

The potential impact of this research includes:

  • Urban Planning and Design: The findings emphasize the significance of urban planning that prioritizes walkability. Planners and policymakers can use this information to design neighborhoods with pedestrian- friendly infrastructure, accessible green spaces, and well-connected pathways, promoting physical activity and healthier lifestyles.
  • Public Health Promotion: Public health campaigns can use the research outcomes to encourage people to adopt more active lifestyles by utilizing walkable neighborhoods. Awareness initiatives can highlight the benefits of regular physical activity for heart health and metabolic well-being.
  • Healthcare Strategies: Healthcare providers can integrate the research findings into their recommendations to patients. They can emphasize the importance of living in walkable areas as part of preventive strategies against cardiometabolic diseases.
  • Policy Advocacy: Local governments and community leaders can advocate for policies that enhance walkability, such as creating safer sidewalks, promoting mixed land use, and improving public transportation. These policies can improve the overall health of the population and reduce the burden on healthcare systems.
  • Health Equity Considerations: The research can shed light on potential health disparities related to walkability. It can prompt discussions on ensuring that underserved communities also have access to walkable neighborhoods, thereby addressing health inequalities.

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