Research Study Abstract

Overcoming the challenges of conducting physical activity and built environment research in Latin America: IPEN Latin America

  • Added on March 13, 2015

Objectives: There is evidence linking the built environment (BE) with physical activity (PA), but few studies have been conducted in Latin America (LA). State-of-the-art methods and protocols have been designed in and applied in high-income countries (HIC). In this paper, we identify key challenges and potential solutions to conducting high-quality PA and BE research in LA.

Methods: The experience of implementing the IPEN data collection protocol (IPEN: International Physical Activity Environment Network) in Curitiba, Brazil; Bogotá, Colombia; and Cuernavaca, Mexico (2010–2011); is described to identify challenges for conducting PA and BE research in LA.

Results: Five challenges were identified: lack of academic capacity (implemented solutions (IS): building a strong international collaborative network); limited data availability, access and quality (IS: partnering with influential local institutions, and crafting creative solutions to use the best-available data); socio-political, socio-cultural and socio-economic context (IS: in-person recruitment and data collection, alternative incentives); safety (IS: strict rules for data collection procedures, and specific measures to increase trust); and appropriateness of instruments and measures (IS: survey adaptation, use of standardized additional survey components, and employing a context-based approach to understanding the relationship between PA and the BE). Advantages of conducting PA and BE research in LA were also identified.

Conclusions: Conducting high-quality PA and BE research in LA is challenging but feasible. Networks of institutions and researchers from both HIC and LMIC play a key role. The lessons learned from the IPEN LA study may be applicable to other LMIC.