Study: Community characteristics affect health of residents with spinal cord injury

Researchers at the Penn Graduate School of education found that community-built environmental influence has an effect on the health of people with spinal cord injury, according to results published recently in Archives of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation.

Amanda Botticello, PhD, MPH, senior research scientist in Outcomes & Assessment Research at Kessler Foundation and colleagues based the study on survey data from the federally funded Spinal Cord Injury System (SCIMS) database (n = 503) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data.

“We found that living in areas with greater mixed land use (residential, commercial, industrial, recreational) was associated with poorer perceived health among people with SCI [spinal cord injury] in New Jersey,” Botticello said in a press release. “This contrasts with studies in the general population, which appears to benefit from living in more populated areas with mixed land use. What benefits the healthy population may not benefit people with limited mobility, such as individuals with SCI.”

Previous studies have shown the physical activity and health of community residents can be affected by the condition, proximity and accessibility of community characteristics like parks, sidewalks, recreational facilities and transportation. Botticello and colleagues wanted to focus their study on the way these factors can influence people with disabilities, including spinal cord injury.

“Understanding the relationship between disability and the environment is essential to supporting optimal adjustment and outcomes in vulnerable populations,” Botticello said. “Including community risk factors in future investigations may help improve health and well-being by identifying individuals at risk for poorer outcomes.”

Reference: Botticello A, et al. Arch Phys Med Rehab. 2015;doi:10.1016/j.apmr.2015.04.025.

Disclosure: Botticello reports she is a co-investigator in the federally funded model system, the Northern New Jersey SCI System, and an associate professor at Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School. The researchers also report the research is supported by funding from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Development (4R00HD065957-05) and National Institute for Disability Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research H133N110020).

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