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Built Environment, Travel, Nutrition and Health in Chinese Cities

Evidence from the China Health and Nutrition Survey

Rui Wang

July 2013, English

Using a longitudinal survey of households and communities in China, this study examines the potential causal relationship between the built environment and travel behavior, nutrition intake, and health of urban residents. The results support that: (1) household income, size, and accessibility to transit and schools affect motor vehicle ownership, though differently depending on motor vehicle type and city size; (2) increase in household income and ownership of motor vehicle reduce the likelihood of cycling or walking by adult commuters; (3) availability of fast food restaurants in neighborhood and ownership of car increase children’s consumption of fast food; (4) the numbers of accessible supermarkets and free markets have opposite effects on urban residents’ food consumption, measured by intakes of calorie, protein, carbohydrate and fat; and (5) adult body mass index is affected positively by income and negatively by education level and participation in housework. Overall, neighborhood food environment, such as access to markets and fast food restaurants, shows significant effects on urban residents’ food and nutrition intake, but not significantly on their health outcomes. While some features of the built environment, such as accessibility to transit and schools, show little direct effect on travel behavior, nutrition intake, or health of Chinese urban residents. Nevertheless, evidence suggests that their effects may be indirect, through household vehicle ownership.

Keywords: People’s Republic of China, Environment, Built environment, Travel, Transportation, Nutrition, Health, Chinese city, Urban