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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Washington: Researchers Use Physical Activity Data to Assess Well-being Following Hurricane Harvey

Biking and walking data may be useful to understand the impact of a disaster on a community and its recovery progress, according to an interdisciplinary team of University of Washington researchers.

In 2017, Hurricane Harvey dumped over 40 inches of rain on parts of Houston over the span of two days. With systems already in place to monitor trail usage, the disaster provided a chance to test how storm damage impacted levels of walking and biking, which may reflect community well-being.

“By using data that is already being collected to understand well-being following a disaster, we can better understand short- and long-term disaster impacts and inform approaches to recovery that build health and resilience,” said senior author Dr. Nicole Errett from the University of Washington School of Public Health. The study, which she developed in collaboration with the UW College of Engineering, was published August 8 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

The researchers used counts of the daily number of bicyclists and pedestrians on four commuter and recreation trails around Houston in two six-week spans, before and after the hurricane. While walking and biking dropped, as expected, immediately after Harvey, the trails showed similar or increased average usage in the six weeks after the hurricane compared to the six weeks before (excluding the two weeks post-landfall).

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