Assessing Perception of Built Environment Policies by Local Policy Makers


Leader: Stephanie Lemon and Karin Goins

Public health authorities increasingly recommend changing policies that affect the built environment as a means of addressing overweight and obesity as well as other chronic health problems. Significant evidence has accumulated correlating specific community environments with rates of overweight and obesity, physical activity and chronic disease. By contrast, few data exist on views of officials responsible for the transportation, land use and public health decisions at the local level that result in these environments.

The purpose of this study is to understand the perspectives of decision makers to inform strategies for change. The team developed an online survey with questions relating to respondents’ beliefs and opinions about priority issues in their community and the relative importance of physical activity in the built environment decision making of the community in which they work. The sampling frame included all municipal elected and appointed officials with responsibility for transportation, land use and public health in communities with population 60,000 and over in eight study states across the country.

The information gained from this study can be used to identify (1) leverage points for advocacy at the local level, (2) challenges and opportunities for increasing local public health involvement in built environment decision making, and (3) opportunities for further research in the relatively unexplored area of implementation and enforcement of policy to promote physical activity. This project is grounded in the concept of community-based research, where community needs help shape and inform.


Municipal officials' perceived barriers to consideration of physical activity in community design decision making [Full Text Article] [Research Brief]

Tools and Resources:

Download the Policy Maker Survey here.


Additional research

Leads: Jay Maddock and Stephenie Lemon

Policymakers and local community policy priority

This analysis uses the data from the municipial officials survey described above, and looks at the importance of climate change in the current job responsibilities of municipial officials. Climate change/energy conservation was rated second lowest among a set of issues in the municipial officials survey, and public health respondents were the least likely to rate climate change as an important part of their job responsibilities.

Check back for results of this new study!