Collaboration Between Physical Activity Researchers and Transport Planners: A Qualitative Study of Attitudes to Data Driven Approaches

Collaboration between physical activity (PA) researchers and transport planners is a recommended strategy to combat the physical inactivity epidemic. Data collected by PA researchers could be used to identify, implement and evaluate active transport (AT) projects. However, despite aligned interests, researchers and transport planners rarely collaborate. This study utilized qualitative methods to 1) gain an in-depth understanding of the data utilized in AT planning, 2) explore the utility of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and accelerometer data in supporting the planning process, 3) identify the benefits and barriers of researcher and transport agency collaboration, and 4) identify the facilitators to collaboration for these groups. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 17 transport modeling, planning or engineering professionals, transport agency directors, and academics with relevant expertise in health or transport planning. A thematic analysis was conducted following structural coding by two researchers. The analysis revealed that geographic and physical activity data that are current, local, objective and specific to individual AT trips would improve upon currently available data sources. Informants believed that research collaboration could increase capacity by providing unbiased data and access to students to assist with targeted research. Collaboration could also increase the relevance of academic research in applied settings. Identified barriers included: setting up contracts, lack of policy and planning mandates that include health, a disconnect between research interests and agency needs, and competing priorities. Researchers may need to initiate discussions with AT practitioners until health is formally included in the planning process as the first step in understanding data needs and identifying mutual research interests. However, regulations that link health and physical activity metrics to funding, as well as training programs that incorporate public health and transport planning, are needed to encourage cross collaboration.


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  • Accession Number: 01667030
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Apr 4 2018 4:55PM