BEAT Institute trains investigators, practitioners in measuring aspects of built environment

Numerous research examines the “built environment,” defined as the man-made entities that form the physical characteristics of a community.

This includes buildings, roads, utilities, homes, food stores, restaurants, fixtures, parks, and more. It also includes what’s captured by the broader concept of “environment” – streetscapes and transportation environments, nutrition and physical activity environments, and everything in between.

This month, the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) is focusing on built-environment concepts and trainings. The Built Environment Assessment Training (BEAT) Institute is an annual week-long institute designed to train investigators and practitioners on tangible skills that can be used to measure aspects of the built environment that are believed to have an effect on health.

NCCOR External Scientific Panel (NESP) member Jim Sallis, Ph.D., of University of California, San Diego, sits on BEAT’s planning committee and teaches an Institute overview course on the built environment and physical activity, and co-leads another course related to self-report measures of physical activity and nutrition environments with the BEAT Institute Director Karen Glanz, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the University of Pennsylvania.

The 2012 session occurs in Boston, June 24-29.

As the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and other official groups have recognized environmental and policy changes as promising strategies for controlling obesity and improving diet and physical activity, various measures have been identified for use by researchers and practitioners to plan and evaluate changes to the built environment. The BEAT Institute trains participants to use these measures.

The goals of the Institute are:

  1. Prepare investigators and practitioners to use both observational and self-report measures of nutrition and activity environments and related behavioral assessments through lectures, fieldwork, hands-on skills, group work and individual consultation.
  2. Increase the number of professionals qualified to conduct built environment assessments for nutrition and physical activity.

The BEAT Institute is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, led by a team at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Health Behavior Research, and presented this year in collaboration with the Harvard Prevention Research Center.

Participation in the BEAT Institute is competitive each year with more than twice as many applicants as available spots. Applications are due in January/February and require a statement of interest, resume, and letters of reference. Registration for the 2012 BEAT Institute is closed, but access is available to 2011 readings and homework assignments.

A summer 2013 BEAT training will also be planned. Check the BEAT Institute homepage for updates.


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