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Validation of Walk Score for estimating access to walkable amenities


Background Proximity to walkable destinations or amenities is thought to influence physical activity behaviour. Previous efforts attempting to calculate neighbourhood walkability have relied on self-report or time-intensive and costly measures. Walk Score is a novel and publicly available website that estimates neighbourhood walkability based on proximity to 13 amenity categories (eg, grocery stores, coffee shops, restaurants, bars, movie theatres, schools, parks, libraries, book stores, fitness centres, drug stores, hardware stores, clothing/music stores).

Objective The purpose of this study is to test the validity and reliability of Walk Score for estimating access to objectively measured walkable amenities.

Methods Walk Scores of 379 residential/non-residential addresses in Rhode Island were manually calculated. Geographic information systems (GIS) was used to objectively measure 4194 walkable amenities in the 13 Walk Score categories. GIS data were aggregated from publicly available data sources. Sums of amenities within each category were matched to address data, and Pearson correlations were calculated between the category sums and address Walk Scores.

Results Significant correlations were identified between Walk Score and all categories of aggregated walkable destinations within a 1-mile buffer of the 379 residential and non-residential addresses. Test–retest reliability correlation coefficients for a subsample of 100 addresses were 1.0.

Conclusion These results support Walk Score as a reliable and valid measure of estimating access to walkable amenities. Walk Score may be a convenient and inexpensive option for researchers interested in exploring the relationship between access to walkable amenities and health behaviours such as physical activity.

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