ALPHA Measure of Environmental Perceptions

Background:

Sjostrom and colleagues (2006) found that about two thirds of adults in the European Union do not get engage in enough physical activity to access the associated health benefits.  Findings such as this have prompted researchers to investigate the environmental determinants of physical activity. Instruments have been developed to assess the suitability of environments worldwide for physical activity. The ALPHA Measure of Environmental Perceptions is designed for use in European settings. It is composed of 49 items centered around 9 themes: types of residences in your neighborhood, distances to local facilities, walking or cycle infrastructure in your neighborhood, maintenance of infrastructure in your neighborhood, neighborhood safety, how pleasant is your neighborhood, cycling and walking network, home environment, and workplace or study environment. The results of the measure give an indication of how suitable the respondent’s environment is for engaging in physical activity. The results could have important implications for area planning and development.

Psychometrics:

The psychometric properties of the instrument are reported in Spittals and colleagues (2010).

Author of Tool:

Spittaels, Foster, Oppert, Rutter, Oja, Sjostrom, & De Bourdeaudhuji

Key references:

Spittaels, H., Foster, C, Oppert, J. M., Rutter, H., Oja, P., Sjostrom, M., & De Bourdeaudhuji, I. (2009). Assessment of environmental correlates of physical activity: Development of a european questionnaire. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity6, 1-11.

 Spittaels, H., Verloigne, M., Gidlow, C., Gloanec, J., Titze, S., Foster, C., … De Bourdeaudhuji, I. (2010). Measuring physical activity-related environmental factors: Reliability and predictive validity of the european environmental questionnaire ALPHA. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity7, 1-19. 

Sjostrom, M., Oja, P., Hagstromer, M., Smith, B. J., & Bauman, A. (2006). Health enhancing physical activity across european union countries: The eurobarometer study. Journal of Public Health14, 291-300. 

Primary use / Purpose:

The ALPHA Measure of Environmental Perceptions was designed to measure the physical features of the respondent’s environment and how suitable it is for physical activity. The instrument is designed for use in European settings.

 

MANUAL ALPHA environmental questionnaire

  1. Introduction

1.1  Why has the ALPHA environmental questionnaire been developed?

Different measures of environmental perceptions in relation to physical activity have been developed, mostly outside Europe, in the US and Australia. As the built environment in Europe differs considerably from those in the US or Australia this raises questions about the applicability of these questionnaires in a European context. No consensus exists about which environmental questionnaire should be used in Europe. The latter issue was one of the objectives of an EU-funded project called ALPHA (Instruments for Assessing Levels of Physical Activity and Fitness), that has proposed standardized instruments for physical activity and fitness monitoring across Europe. As part of the ALPHA framework an instrument, the ALPHA environmental questionnaire, that could be used to assess environmental aspects of physical activity in the general adult populations in Europe was created:

1.2 How was the ALPHA environmental questionnaire developed?

The development process of the ALPHA questionnaire included (1) a literature review on currently used environmental questionnaires in Europe, (2) a survey among European members of the HEPA & IPEN networks, (3) two consensus meetings with an international expert group and (4) two field testing phases in Belgium, France, UK and Austria. More information about the development of the questionnaire can be found in the following papers:

Spittaels H, Foster C, Oppert JM, Rutter H, Oja P, Sjöström M, De Bourdeaudhuij I. : Assessment of environmental correlates of physical activity: development of a European questionnaire. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 2009, 6: 39.

Spittaels H, Verloigne M., Gidlow C., Gloanec J.; Titze S.;  Foster C, Oppert JM, Rutter H, Oja P, Sjöström M and De Bourdeaudhuij I. Measuring physical activity-related environmental factors: reliability and predictive validity of the European environmental questionnaire ALPHA. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act (submitted)

1.3 Who has developed the ALPHA environmental questionnaire?

The core members of the ALPHA group involved in the development of the environmental questionnaire were: Ilse De Bourdeaudhuij (Belgium), Charlie Foster (UK), Pekka Oja (Finland), Jean-Michel Oppert (France),  Harry Rutter (UK), Michael Sjöström (Sweden) and  Heleen Spittaels (Belgium).

The questionnaire was adapted after two consensus meetings with an international expert group, including the following experts:

Andrea Backovic (Slovenia); Patrick Bergman (Sweden); Fiona C.L. Bull (UK); Basile Chaix (France); Rachel Davy (UK); Janet Klara Djomba (Slovenia); Klaus Gebel (Germany); Christopher Gidlow (UK); Maria Hagstromer (Sweden); Melvin Hillsdon (UK); Andy Jones (UK);  Roger Macket (UK); David Ogilvie (UK); Neville Owen (Australia); James F Sallis (US); Kristina Sundquist (Sweden); Sylvia Titze (Austria); Frank Van Lenthe (Netherlands).

1.4 Themes of the ALPHA environmental questionnaire

The ALPHA questionnaire consists of 49 items grouped in 9 themes. These themes are:

(1) types of residences in your neighbourhood

(2) distances to local facilities

(3) walking or cycle infrastructure in your neighbourhood

(4) maintenance of infrastructure in your neighbourhood

(5) neighbourhood safety

(6) how pleasant is your neighbourhood

(7) cycling and walking network

(8) home environment

(9) workplace or study environment

1.5  Aim of this manual

The aim of this manual is to standardize the way the ALPHA environmental questionnaire is being used, and the data is collected, cleaned and analyzed so that it would be possible to compare data across different studies.

  1. Using the ALPHA environmental questionnaire

2.1 Collecting data

The ALPHA environmental questionnaire was developed and tested for its reliability and validity as a paper & pencil questionnaire without assistance. On average, it takes 6 minutes to complete. The ALPHA questionnaire is available in 6 different European languages: English, Dutch, French, German, Spanish and Finnish. All these versions could be found on the website of the International Physical activity and Environment network  (http://www.ipenproject.org). Further you could also find an SPSS data file template and SPSS syntax to input, clean and analyze your data.

2.2 Input data

If you use the statistical program SPSS (now called PASW) we recommend to use the ALPHA data file template. Do not change any of the variables names as these correspond to the names used in the SPSS syntax.

If you don’t use the SPSS data file template, please score your data as follows:

ThemeAnswer categoryScore
Theme 1None

A few

Some

Most

All

1

2

3

4

5

Theme 21-5 min

6-10 min

11-20 min

21-30 min

More than 30 min

1

2

3

4

5

Themes 3, 4, 5, 6a, 7strongly disagree

somewhat disagree

somewhat agree

strongly agree

not applicable

1

2

3

4

5

6b, 6c, 6dNone

A few

Some

plenty

1

2

3

4

Themes 8 & 9Yes

No

1

0

2.3 How to clean and analyze the data?

In this section we describe how to clean and analyze the data. Question numbers are used as a reference for all the calculations. The same question numbers could be found in the SPSS syntax and SPSS data file template.

Step 1. Checking typos and missing values

Check your data on input errors by frequencies or boxplots. Input missing variables if needed.

Step 2. Recode negative items

The following items are negatively/inversely formulated (higher scores indicates a less supportive environment for physical activity): 5a, 5b, 5c, 5d, 5e, 5f, 6b, 6d, 8e, 9Ba, 9Bf. Therefore recode these answers in opposite direction:

Original ItemsRecoded itemsRecode with following rule
5a,  5b, 5c, 5d, 5e, 5f, 6b, 6dr5a, r5b, r5c, r5d, r5e, r5f, r6b, r6d1=> 4

2=>3

3=>2

4=>1

8e, 9Ba, 9Bfr8e, r9Ba, r9Bf0=>1

1=>0

Step 3. Answer category Not applicable:

If you don’t use the SPSS data file template, recode answer category “not applicable” of items 4a, 4b, 4c into “missing value”

Sept 4. Summations

  • Theme 1: Calculate a density score with the following rule:

Density score = 1a  + (1b * 12) + (1c * 50)

  • Theme 2: Calculate a distance score by summing all items of theme 2

Distance score= 2a + 2b + 2c + 2d + 2e + 2f +2g + 2h

  • Theme 3: Calculate 3 availability scores with following rules:

Availability sidewalks = 3a + 3b

Availability bike lanes = 3c + 3d

Availability infrastructure = 3a + 3b + 3c + 3d

  • Theme 4: Calculate maintenance score by summing all items of theme 4

Maintenance = 4a + 4b +4c

  • Theme 5: Calculate 3 safety scores by summing recoded variables of theme 5 with following

                   rules:

Total safety = r5a + r5b + r5c + r5d + r5e + r5f

Safety crime = r5a + r5e + r5f

Safety traffic = r5b + r5c + r5d

  • Theme 6: Calculate 2 scores with following rules (attention: include recoded variables r6b& r6d)

Pleasure = 6a+ r6b + 6c + r6d

Aesthetics = r6b + 6c + r6d

  • Theme 7:Calculate 2 sumscores with following rules

Network= 7a + 7b + 7c + 7d

Connectivity = 7a + 7c + 7d

  • Theme 8: Calculate sumscore home environment by summing all items of theme 8

(attention: include recoded variable r8e)

Home = 8a + 8b + 8c + 8d + r8e + 8f

  • Theme 9: Calculate sumscore work/study environment by summing all items of theme 9B

(attention: include recoded variables r9Ba & r9Bf)

Work/Study = r9Ba + 9Bb +9Bc + 9Bd + 9Be + r9Bf + 9Bg +9Bh +9Bi + 9Bj

ALPHA measure of environmental perceptions: active travel and physical activity

We would like to find out more information about the way that you think about your neighbourhood, home environment and workplace or study environment. Please answer as honestly and completely as possible and provide only one answer for each item. There are no right or wrong answers and your information will be kept confidential.

  1. Types of residences in your neighbourhood

How common are the following types of residences in your immediate neighbourhood?

By your neighbourhood we mean ALL the area within approximately one kilometer or half a mile of your home or that you could walk to in 10-15 minutes.

Please put one check mark (ü) per answer that best applies to your view of your neighbourhood

NoneA fewSomeMostAll
a)   Detached houses
b)      Semi-detached houses or terraced houses
c)       Apartment buildings or blocks of flats
  1. Distance to local facilities

About how long would it take to get from your home to the nearest businesses or facilities listed below if you WALKED to them?

Please put one check mark (ü) for each business or facility.

The nearest…1-5 min6-10 min11-20 min21-30 minMore than 30 min
a)      Local shop: grocery shop, bakery, butcher etc.
b)      Supermarket
c)       Local services such as a bank, post office or library, …
d)      Restaurant, café, pub or bar
e)      Fast-food restaurant  or takeaway
f)        Bus stop, tram, metro or train station
g)      Sport and leisure facility such as a swimming pool, sports field or fitness centre
h)      Open recreation area such as a park or other open space
  1. Walking and cycling infrastructure in your neighbourhood

By your neighbourhood we mean ALL the area within approximately one kilometer or half a mile of your home or that you could walk to in 10-15 minutes.

Please circle one answer per statement

Strongly disagreeSomewhat

disagree

Somewhat

agree

Strongly

agree

a)      There are sidewalks in my neighbourhood 

1

 

2

 

3

 

4

b)      There are pedestrian zones or pedestrian trails in my neighbourhood 

1

 

2

 

3

 

4

c)       There are special lanes, routes or paths for cycling in my neighbourhood 

1

 

2

 

3

 

4

d)      There are cycle routes in my neighbourhood that are separated from traffic 

1

 

2

 

3

 

4

  1. Maintenance of walking and cycling infrastructure in your neighbourhood

By your neighbourhood we mean ALL the area within approximately one kilometer or half a mile of your home or that you could walk to in 10-15 minutes.

Please circle one answer per statement

Strongly disagreeSomewhat

disagree

Somewhat

agree

Strongly

agree

Not applicable
a)      The sidewalks in my neighbourhood are well maintained 

1

 

2

 

3

 

4

 

5

b)      The cycle paths in my neighbourhood are well maintained 

1

 

2

 

3

 

4

 

5

c)       The play areas, playgrounds, parks or other open spaces in my neighbourhood are well maintained 

1

 

2

 

3

 

4

 

5

  1. Neighbourhood safety

By your neighbourhood we mean ALL the area within approximately one kilometer or half a mile of your home or that you could walk to in 10-15 minutes.

Please circle one answer per statement

Strongly disagreeSomewhat

disagree

Somewhat

agree

Strongly

agree

a)      It is dangerous to leave a bicycle locked in my neighbourhood 

1

 

2

 

3

 

4

b)      There are not enough safe places to cross busy streets in my neighbourhood 

1

 

2

 

3

 

4

c)       Walking is dangerous because of the traffic in my neighbourhood 

1

 

2

 

3

 

4

d)      Cycling is dangerous because of the traffic in my neighbourhood 

1

 

2

 

3

 

4

e)      It is dangerous in my neighbourhood during the day because of the level of crime 

1

 

2

 

3

 

4

f)        It is dangerous in my neighbourhood during the night because of the level of crime 

1

 

2

 

3

 

4

  1. How pleasant is your neighbourhood for walking or cycling?

By your neighbourhood we mean ALL the area within approximately one kilometer or half a mile of your home or that you could walk to in 10-15 minutes.

Please circle one answer per statement

Strongly disagreeSomewhat

disagree

Somewhat

agree

Strongly

agree

a)      My local neighbourhood is a pleasant environment for walking or cycling 

1

 

2

 

3

 

4

NoneA fewSomePlenty
b)      There is litter or graffiti in the streets of my neighbourhood 

1

 

2

 

3

 

4

c)       There are trees along the streets in my neighbourhood 

1

 

2

 

3

 

4

d)      In my neighbourhood there are badly maintained, unoccupied or ugly buildings 

1

 

2

 

3

 

4

  1. Walking and cycling network

By your neighbourhood we mean ALL the area within approximately one kilometer or half a mile of your home or that you could walk to in 10-15 minutes.

Please circle one answer per statement

Strongly disagreeSomewhat

disagree

Somewhat

agree

Strongly

agree

a)      There are many shortcuts for walking in my neighbourhood 

1

 

2

 

3

 

4

b)      Cycling is quicker than driving in my neighbourhood during the day 

1

 

2

 

3

 

4

c)       There are many road junctions in my neighbourhood 

1

 

2

 

3

 

4

d)      There are many different routes for walking or cycling from place to place in my neighbourhood so I don’t have to go the same way every time 

 

1

 

 

2

 

 

3

 

 

4

  1. Home Environment
 Please tick Yes or No [ü]
YesNo
a)   Do you have a bicycle for your personal use?
b)   Do you have a garden (including a yard, allotment or city garden)?
c)    Do you have small sports equipment such as a ball, racquets, …for your personal use?
d)   Do you have exercise equipment such as weights, treadmill, stationary cycle, …for your personal use?
e)   Do you have access to a car?
f)     Do you have a dog ?
  1. Workplace or study environment

How far do you have to travel to get to your usual place of work or study?

       I do not work or study → Please skip part B

       I usually work at home or from home → Please skip part B

       The distance to my work or place of study is _____________miles/kilometres (circle as appropriate)                                                       

At your work or place of study do you have….?

Please tick one box only [ü]
 Yes No
a)      …escalators or lifts
b)      …stairs
c)       …fitness centre/equipment
d)      …bicycles provided by employer or school
e)      …a safe place to leave a bike
f)        …enough car parking spaces
g)      …showers and changing rooms
h)      …exercise classes (e.g. aerobics classes)
i)         …sports club / association (e.g. running club)
j)    …employer/school subsidised public transport