Drop-And-Spin Virtual Neighborhood Auditing: Assessing Built Environment for Linkage to Health Studies


      Various built environment factors might influence certain health behaviors and outcomes. Reliable, resource-efficient methods that are feasible for assessing built environment characteristics across large geographies are needed for larger, more robust studies. This paper reports the item response prevalence, reliability, and rating time of a new virtual neighborhood audit protocol, drop-and-spin auditing, developed for assessment of walkability and physical disorder characteristics across large geographic areas.


      Drop-and-spin auditing, a method where a Google Street View scene was rated by spinning 360° around a point location, was developed using a modified version of the virtual audit tool Computer Assisted Neighborhood Visual Assessment System. Approximately 8,000 locations within Essex County, New Jersey were assessed by 11 trained auditors. Using a standardized protocol, 32 built environment items per a location within Google Street View were audited. Test–retest and inter-rater κ statistics were from a 5% subsample of locations. Data were collected in 2017–2018 and analyzed in 2018.


      Roughly 70% of Google Street View scenes had sidewalks. Among those, two thirds were in good condition. At least 5 obvious items of garbage or litter were present in 41% of Google Street View scenes. Maximum test–retest reliability indicated substantial agreement (κ ≥0.61) for all items. Inter-rater reliability of each item, generally, was lower than test–retest reliability. The median time to rate each item was 7.3 seconds.


      Compared with segment-based protocols, drop-and-spin virtual neighborhood auditing is quicker and similarly reliable for assessing built environment characteristics. Assessment of large geographies may be more feasible using drop-and-spin virtual auditing.
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