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 Media contact:  
 Phillip Rollfing  

Design influence

Student's research links health
disparities to community design



Not all communities are created equally when it comes to opportunities for physical activity, says an expert on environmental justice who addressed a national gathering of active living researchers last February. Work done at Texas A&M supports that contention. Xuemei Zhu, a landscape architecture and urban planning graduate student studying with professor Chanam Lee, examined surrounding environments of public elementary schools in Austin to determine their safety and walkability. Among schools with a higher percentage of Hispanic children, researchers found that the surrounding areas had increased street connectivity and more sidewalks, but lacked amenities, maintenance and safety from crime, which made it less safe for those children to walk to school.
“Race and place matter when it comes to physical activity,” said Robert D. Bullard, author of the recently published book, Growing Smarter: Achieving Livable Communities, Environmental Justice, and Regional Equity. “People in poorer communities do not have access to the same recreational opportunities and safe sidewalks that those in wealthier communities do, making it more difficult to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle.”
Bullard, a professor at Clark Atlanta University, was the keynote speaker at the 2007 Active Living Research Conference, and one of several presenters who will explore how neighborhood design and urban planning can affect activity levels, especially among disadvantaged communities. Bullard will discuss the link between health, transportation equality and specific racial and ethnic populations. He also will encourage active living researchers to use lessons from the environmental justice movement to inform policy-makers and promote change.
Lee and Zhu attended the Active Living Research Conference, held Feb. 22-24 in Coronado, Calif., to explore racial and ethnic disparities in physical activity.
Free access to the full text of articles appearing in the American Journal of Health Promotion will be available online at on Feb. 22.
Active Living Research is a $12.5-million national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that stimulates and supports research to identify environmental factors and policies that influence physical activity among all Americans.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 30 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. For more information, visit

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