Background The influence of the built environment on health is of contemporary societal interest. The design of streets in neighbourhood settings may contribute positively to the health of populations through increased physical activity, but it may also have injury consequences.
Methods We conducted a national cross-sectional study to describe the injury experiences of 9021 students from 180 Canadian schools that participated in the 2006 Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children survey. Street designs surrounding each school (5 km circular buffer) were estimated via geographic information systems for three established measures of connectivity (intersection density, average block length and connected node ratio). A composite scale of connectivity was derived using factor analysis. Multilevel logistic regression analyses were used to examine the associations between the composite connectivity measure and students' reports of physical activity injuries occurring in the street (street injuries).
Results Students living in neighbourhoods with low versus high street connectivity reported possible increases in the occurrence of street injuries (OR, 1.38; 95% CI, 0.84 to 2.26). This relationship was mainly attributable to the occurrence of bicycle injuries (52% of all street injuries; OR, 2.33; 95% CI, 1.28 to 4.25). The population attributable risk was 20% for street injuries potentially caused by living in an area with low connectivity.
Conclusion The design of streets, as a measure of the built environment, is related to the occurrence of youth injury. Positive effects of poorly connected street designs that are likely in terms of physical activity were offset by negative injury outcomes, although the injuries observed were mostly minor in nature.
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Funding This study was funded by an operating grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (MOP 97962) and a second operating grant cofunded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada (PCR 101415). In addition, Graham Mecredy was supported by a Master's Studentship Award from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario. Ian Janssen was supported by investigator awards from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation. The Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children Survey (HBSC), a World Health Organization/European Region collaborative study, was funded in Canada by the Public Health Agency of Canada (Contract: HT089-05205/001/SS). The principal investigator of the 2006 Canadian HBSC was William Boyce, and HBSC is coordinated internationally by Candace Currie (University of Edinburgh).
Competing interests None.
Ethics approval This study was approved by the Queen's University Research Ethics Board.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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