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J Urban Health. 2004 Dec;81(4):682-701.

Reliability of self-reported neighborhood characteristics.

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Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health, Department of Epidemiology, 622 West 168th Street, PH-9, Room 105, New York, NY 10032, USA.


The majority of studies examining the relation between neighborhood environments and health have used census-based indicators to characterize neighborhoods. These studies have shown that neighborhood socioeconomic characteristics are associated with a range of health outcomes. Establishing if these associations reflect causal relations requires testing hypotheses regarding how specific features of neighborhoods are related to specific health outcomes. However, there is little information on the reliability of neighborhood measures. The purpose of this study was to estimate the reliability of a questionnaire measuring various self-reported measures of the neighborhood environment of possible relevance to cardiovascular disease. The study consisted of a face-to-face and telephone interview administered twice to 48 participants over a 2-week period. The face-to-face and telephone portions of the interview lasted an average of 5 and 11 minutes, respectively. The questionnaire was piloted among a largely Latino and African American study sample recruited from a public hospital setting in New York City. Scales were used to assess six neighborhood domains: aesthetic quality, walking/exercise environment, safety from crime, violence, access to healthy foods, and social cohesion. Cronbach's alpha's ranged from .77 to .94 for the scales corresponding to these domains, with test-retest correlations ranging from 0.78 to 0.91. In addition, neighborhood indices for presence of recreational facilities, quality of recreational facilities, neighborhood participation, and neighborhood problems were examined. Test-retest reliability measures for these indices ranged from 0.73 to 0.91. The results from this study suggested that self-reported neighborhood characteristics can be reliably measured.

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