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Open Access Research

Multi-level examination of correlates of active transportation to school among youth living within 1 mile of their school

Kathleen M Gropp1, William Pickett12 and Ian Janssen13*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, Canada

2 Department of Emergency Medicine, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, Canada

3 School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, K7L 3N6, Canada

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2012, 9:124  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-9-124

Published: 16 October 2012

Abstract

Background

Active transportation to school is a method by which youth can build physical activity into their daily routines. We examined correlates of active transportation to school at both individual- (characteristics of the individual and family) and area- (school and neighborhood) levels amongst youth living within 1 mile (1.6 km) of their school.

Methods

Using the 2009/10 Canadian Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children (HBSC) survey, we selected records of students (n = 3 997) from 161 schools that resided in an urban setting and lived within 1 mile from their school. Student records were compiled from: (1) individual-level HBSC student questionnaires; (2) area-level administrator (school) questionnaires; and (3) area-level geographic information system data sources. The outcome, active transportation to school, was determined via a questionnaire item describing the method of transportation that individual students normally use to get to school. Analyses focused on factors at multiple levels that potentially contribute to student decisions to engage in active transportation. Multi-level logistic regression analyses were employed.

Results

Approximately 18% of the variance in active transportation was accounted for at the area-level. Several individual and family characteristics were associated with engagement in active transportation to school including female gender (RR vs. males = 0.86, 95% CI: 0.80-0.91), having ≥2 cars in the household (RR vs. no cars = 0.87, 0.74-0.97), and family socioeconomic status (RR for ‘not well off’ vs. ‘very well off’ = 1.14, 1.01-1.26). Neighborhood characteristics most strongly related to active transportation were: the length of roads in the 1 km buffer (RR in quartile 4 vs. quartile 1 = 1.23, 1.00-1.42), the amount of litter in the neighborhood (RR for ‘major problem’ vs. ‘no problem’ = 1.47, 1.16-1.57), and relatively hot climates (RR in quartile 4 vs. quartile 1 = 1.33 CI, 1.05-1.53).

Conclusion

Engagement in active transportation to school was related to multiple factors at multiple levels. We identified gender, perception of residential neighborhood safety, the percentage of streets with sidewalks, and the total length of roads as the most important correlates of active transportation to school.

Keywords:
Active transportation; Adolescent; School; Neighborhood