Built Environment and Planning

The built environment is both accused of being the problem and praised as the solution for a range of health problems. Public health professionals and urban planners have sought ways to leverage built environments to promote health. The work conducted by the researchers of Columbia Urban Health brings together practitioners, researchers, and policymakers to find opportunities to transform cities into places that cultivate health.

NYC Neighborhood Asthma and Allergy study

This study aims to further understanding of the causes of disparities in asthma prevalence and morbidity between low-income urban neighborhoods as compared to higher-income communities.  This study is novel in that it is examining populations with striking difference in asthma prevalence despite being geographically close (and thus exposed to many of the same things), of a similar income, and with similar access to health care. More information

Faculty/Program: Columbia Center for Children's Environmental HealthMatthew Perzanowski

Cities: New York
 


The Mothers and Newborns Study in New York City

This study follows a group of African American and Latino pregnant women and their children from birth through adolescence. We examine the respiratory health, cognitive development, and level of cancer risk in children prenatally exposed to common urban air pollutants from fuel burning, environmental tobacco smoke, residential pesticides, cockroach and mouse allergens, phthalates and bisphenol A, mold, mercury, and lead. More information

Faculty/ProgramColumbia Center for Children's Environmental Health

Cities: New York
 


The Mothers and Newborns Study in China

This study seeks to determine the health benefits to newborns of reducing in utero exposure to toxic air pollutants generated by coal burning.  The Center launched its first study in 2001 in Tongliang and in 2009, the Center launched a multi-level research program to track the benefits of broad government intervention in Taiyuan, one of the most polluted areas of the country. More information

Faculty/ProgramColumbia Center for Children's Environmental Health

Cities: Tongliang and Taiyuan
 


The Mothers and Newborns Study in Poland

This study takes place in Krakow and follows 500 pregnant women and their children through prospective research studies, examining how multiple common urban pollutants are contributing to rising rates of asthma, developmental delays, behavioral disorders, and cancer risk. As the cohort matures, we are continuing to collect and analyze data to determine the effects of these early-life exposures on children’s health. More information

Faculty/ProgramColumbia Center for Children's Environmental Health

Cities: Krakow
 


Potential Inhaled Dose of Particulates, Biking and Cardiovascular Indicators

This study seeks to improve our toolkit for measuring human exposure to air pollution by combining data from instruments that measure air pollution concentrations every minute with estimates of how much air a given person drew into their lungs. When multiplied together, these two numbers give a better estimate of your actual dose of air pollution. We will use these new tools to understand the health impacts of cycling in New York City, and will feed this information back to urban cyclists and city planners. More information

Faculty/Program: Darby Jack

Cities: New York City
 


INJURY FREE COALITION FOR KIDS

Through education, improving the physical and social environment for children, and developing a coalition from the medical community, governmental agencies and the community parents and organizations, this coalition works to reduce injury to children and promote safe communities. More information

Faculty/Program: Barbara Barlow

Cities: See site list
 


Evaluating Compliance and Refining Enforcement of Smoke-Free Housing Policy in Low Income Multiple Unit Housing

In collaboration with a community-based organization that owns and manages several affordable housing properties throughout NYC, this project evaluates implementation of a smoke-free housing policy using community health workers and harm reduction.  It is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Faculty/Program: Angela Aidala, Diana Hernandez

Cities: New York
 


A Randomized Trial of Abandoned Housing Remediation, Substance Abuse and Violence

This study looks at the effects of abandoned housing remediation on substance abuse outcomes (both alcohol and drug related) and violence outcomes (particularly firearm violence). More information

Faculty/Program: Charles Branas

Cities: Philadelphia
 


A Randomized Trial of Urban Vacant Lot Stabilization and Substance Abuse Outcomes

This study seeks to determine if health and safety and improved by “greening” vacant land and creating little parks in residential areas. More information

Faculty/Program: Charles Branas

Cities: Philadelphia
 


TRANSLATING A FALLS PROGRAM TO INNER-CITY SENIORS USING A TRANSPORTATION PROGRAM

Falls and related injuries are a leading cause of morbidity, mortality, economic impacts, and institutionalization among older adults. This project will translate an evidence-based cognitive behavioral falls prevention program to seniors who use a transportation program that provides free door-through-door travel with support from trained mobility facilitators.  

Faculty/Program: Columbia Center for Injury Science and Prevention (CCISP)

Cities: New York
 


Pedestrian Environment Characteristics Associated with Pedestrian-Motor Vehicle Collisions in New York City

Every year 5,000 pedestrians in the U.S. are killed by motor vehicles and orders of magnitude more are injured. To date, research to identify modifiable pedestrian environment features that place pedestrians at elevated risk of injury or death from motor vehicles has been limited by the logistical and resource barriers of conducting in-person audits to characterize street intersections. We have previously demonstrated that “virtual audits” conducted via Google Street View can efficiently capture valid data on built environments, intersection conditions, bike lanes, and pedestrian safety features. We will examine associations between built environment characteristics of intersections and pedestrian injuries in New York City using data on intersection characteristics previously collected via virtual audit. This work will be done in preparation for a large scale nationally representative location-based case-control study of the effect of built environment on pedestrian injury risk.

Faculty/Program: Columbia Center for Injury Science and Prevention (CCISP)

Cities: New York
 


CANVAS-Street View

A common research method used to collect data on neighborhood conditions is to send trained audit teams to walk or drive through neighborhoods and collect data on neighborhood conditions using standardized audit instruments.  This approach is known as Systematic Social Observation or alternatively as a “neighborhood audit”.   We have shown that data on neighborhood conditions can be collected as rigorously via ‘virtual audits’ using Google Street View to view street-scapes [1] at a fraction of the cost of field audits.  Street View provides panoramic, street-level views of city streets, in which the user can navigate forward or backward along the street, pan 360 degrees, rotate the camera vertically 290 degrees, and zoom in and out.

With grant support from National Institute on Health we have developed an online system, “Computer Assisted Neighborhood Visual Assessment System” (CANVAS), to conduct Street View based audits of neighborhoods.  CANVAS is built on the Django web framework and makes extensive use of the Google Maps V3 API, JQuery, and object-oriented Javascript. More information

Faculty/Program: Built Environment and Health Research Group

Cities: New York
 


Fitnessgram

In a project funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Active Living Research Program, we are using the 2007-2008 NYC FITNESSGRAM data to study how school and home neighborhood characteristics influence childhood obesity and fitness. The NYC FITNESSGRAM program is part of the NYC Department of Education’s physical education curriculum and collects data annually on height, weight and fitness for NYC public school students. After a two-year pilot testing and training phase, the NYC Fitnessgram program was first fully implemented in the 2007-2008 school year. Using a standardized protocol, height and weight measurements were made by physical education teachers who all received training through a NYC DOE sponsored workshop and via additional reference material posted online.  In the 2007-2008 school year ~660,000 children took part in FITNESSGRAM. 

We have linked the FITNESSGRAM data to the student’s residential Census tract and to the school they attend.  We are now investigating whether childhood obesity and fitness are associated with neighborhood food environments, access to parks and playgrounds, neighborhood walkability and neighborhood safety. More information

Faculty/Program: Built Environment and Health Research Group

Cities: New York
 


Partnership for Environmental Public Health 

Through the Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH), researchers, community organizations and community members may identify local environmental health issues, research these issues and formulate policy to reduce the adverse effects these issues have on communities and promote forward steps towards healthy community living.
New York City (NYC) is a highly developed urban area with great spatial disparity in built environmental conditions. Columbia University’s Built Environmental Health Project (BEH) group and local community organizations have worked jointly in identifying and mitigating local environmental health issues. Since these issues are consequences of the urban landscape, geospatial data plays an important role in understanding where communities lack the essential features to promote healthy lifestyles. More information

Faculty/Program: Built Environment and Health Research Group

Cities: New York