The SPOTLIGHT virtual audit tool: a valid and reliable tool to assess obesogenic characteristics of the built environmentReport as inadecuate

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International Journal of Health Geographics

, 13:52

First Online: 16 December 2014Received: 06 October 2014Accepted: 08 December 2014DOI: 10.1186-1476-072X-13-52

Cite this article as: Bethlehem, J.R., Mackenbach, J.D., Ben-Rebah, M. et al. Int J Health Geogr 2014 13: 52. doi:10.1186-1476-072X-13-52


BackgroundA lack of physical activity and overconsumption of energy dense food is associated with overweight and obesity. The neighbourhood environment may stimulate or hinder the development and-or maintenance of a healthy lifestyle. To improve research on the obesogenicity of neighbourhood environments, reliable, valid and convenient assessment methods of potential obesogenic characteristics of neighbourhood environments are needed. This study examines the reliability and validity of the SPOTLIGHT-Virtual Audit Tool S-VAT, which uses remote sensing techniques Street View feature in Google Earth for desk-based assessment of environmental obesogenicity.

MethodsA total of 128 street segments in four Dutch urban neighbourhoods – heterogeneous in socio-economic status and residential density – were assessed using the S-VAT. Environmental characteristics were categorised as walking related items, cycling related items, public transport, aesthetics, land use-mix, grocery stores, food outlets and physical activity facilities. To assess concordance of inter- and intra-observer reliability of the Street View feature in Google Earth, and validity scores with real life audits, percentage agreement and Cohen-s Kappa k were calculated.

ResultsIntra-observer reliability was high and ranged from 91.7% agreement k = 0.654 to 100% agreement k = 1.000 with an overall agreement of 96.4% k = 0.848. Inter-observer reliability results ranged from substantial agreement 78.6% k = 0.440 to high agreement, 99.2% k = 0.579, with an overall agreement of 91.5% k = 0.595. Criterion validity was substantial to high for most of the categories ranging from 87.3% agreement k = 0.539 to 99.9% agreement k = 0.887 with an overall score of 95.6% agreement k = 0.747.

ConclusionThese study results suggest that the S-VAT is a highly reliable and valid remote sensing tool to assess potential obesogenic environmental characteristics.

KeywordsVirtual audit tool Remote sensing techniques Environmental characteristics Reliability Validity Diet Physical activity AbbreviationsCBSStatistics Netherlands

GEGoogle Earth

GISGeographical Information Systems

GSVGoogle Street View

RADResidential Area Density

SESSocio- Economic Status

SOPStandard Operating Procedure

S-VATSPOTLIGHT Virtual Audit Tool.

Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1186-1476-072X-13-52 contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

John R Bethlehem, Joreintje D Mackenbach contributed equally to this work.

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Author: John R Bethlehem - Joreintje D Mackenbach - Maher Ben-Rebah - Sofie Compernolle - Ketevan Glonti - Helga Bárdos - Harry 


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