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J Phys Act Health. 2011 Feb;8(2):262-71.

Neighborhood incivilities, perceived neighborhood safety, and walking to school among urban-dwelling children.

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  • 1Department of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD, USA.



Walking to school is an important source of physical activity among children. There is a paucity of research exploring environmental determinants of walking to school among children in urban areas.


A cross-sectional secondary analysis of baseline data (2007) from 365 children in the "Multiple Opportunities to Reach Excellence" (MORE) Study (8 to 13 years; Mean 9.60 years, SD 1.04). Children and caregivers were asked about walking to school and perceived safety. Objective measures of the environment were obtained using a validated environmental neighborhood assessment.


Over half (55.83%) of children reported walking to school most of the time. High levels of neighborhood incivilities were associated with lower levels of perceived safety (OR: 0.39, 95% CI: 0.21 to 0.72). Living on a block above the median in incivilities was associated with a 353% increase in odds of walking to school (OR: 3.53; 95% CI: 1.68 to 7.39).


Children residing in neighborhoods high in incivilities are more likely to walk to school, in spite of lower levels of perceived safety. As a high proportion of children residing in disadvantaged neighborhoods walk to school, efforts should be directed at minimizing exposure to neighborhood hazards by ensuring safe routes to and from school.

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