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Active transportation surveillance — United States, 1999–2012
  • Published Date:
    August 28, 2015
  • Language:
Filetype[PDF-830.55 KB]

  • Corporate Authors:
    National Center for Environmental Health (U.S.). Division of Emergency and Environmental Health Services,.Healthy Community Design Initiative. Office of Noncommunicable Diseases, Injury, and Environmental Health. ; National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (U.S.). Division of Nutrition Physical Activity and Obesity, Physical Activity and Health Branch. Office of Noncommunicable Diseases, Injury, and Environmental Health. ;
  • Description:
    Problem/Condition: Physical activity is a health-enhancing behavior, and most U.S. adults do not meet the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Active transportation, such as by walking or bicycling, is one way that persons can be physically active. No comprehensive, multiyear assessments of active transportation surveillance in the United States have been conducted.

    Period Covered: 1999–2012.

    Description of Systems: Five surveillance systems assess one or more components of active transportation. The American Community Survey and the National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) both assess the mode of transportation to work in the past week. From these systems, the proportion of respondents who reported walking or bicycling to work can be calculated. NHTS and the American Time Use Survey include 1-day assessments of trips or activities. With that information, the proportion of respondents who report any walking or bicycling for transportation can be calculated. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and the National Health Interview Survey both assess recent (i.e., in the past week or past month) habitual physical activity behaviors, including those performed during active travel. From these systems, the proportion of respondents who report any recent habitual active transportation can be calculated.

    Results: The prevalence of active transportation as the primary commute mode to work in the past week ranged from 2.6% to 3.4%. The 1-day assessment indicated that the prevalence of any active transportation ranged from 10.5% to 18.5%. The prevalence of any habitual active transportation ranged from 23.9% to 31.4%. No consistent trends in active transportation across time periods and surveillance systems were identified. Among systems, active transportation was usually more common among men, younger respondents, and minority racial/ethnic groups. Among education groups, the highest prevalence of active transportation was usually among the least or most educated groups, and active transportation tended to be more prevalent in densely populated, urban areas.

    Interpretation: Active transportation is assessed in a wide variety of ways in multiple surveillance systems. Different assessment techniques and construct definitions result in widely discrepant estimates of active transportation; however, some consistent patterns were detected across covariates. Although each type of assessment (i.e., transportation to work, single day, and habitual behavior) measures a different active transportation component, all can be used to monitor population trends in active transportation participation.

    Public Health Action: An understanding of the strengths, limitations, and lack of comparability of active transportation assessment techniques is necessary to correctly evaluate findings from the various surveillance systems. When used appropriately, these systems can be used by public health and transportation professionals to monitor population participation in active transportation and plan and evaluate interventions that influence active transportation.

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