Atlanta BeltLine’s health impact to be measured by GSU, CDC researchers

By David Pendered

Georgia State University and the CDC have teamed up on a two-year research project to evaluate how the Atlanta BeltLine is affecting the quality of life of people who live near it.

Researhers are to study the impact the Atlanta BeltLine is having on the well being of nearby residents. File/Credit: brownfieldrenewal.com

Researhers are to study the impact the Atlanta BeltLine is having on the well being of nearby residents. File/Credit: brownfieldrenewal.com

The BeltLine is the nation’s largest urban renewal project. As such, there’s a great deal of interest in the degree to which the BeltLine can improve the physical and mental well being of people who live near it or use it regularly.

The new study will address some of those issues. The $100,000 project is jointly funded by Georgia State University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers intend to interview 400 residents who live along various parts of the BeltLine, according to a GSU statement. Residents will have a chance to share their thoughts about the BeltLine and how it has affected their opinions on topics including physical activity and crime.

The research team is to be comprised of more than 20 specialists in topics including public health and the role the built environment has on overall health.

Christina Fuller intends to focus her research on issues related to air quality. Fuller, an assistant professor in Environmental Health at the School of Public Health, has two degrees from Harvard’s School of Public Health and specializes in air pollution and near-highway homes, according to her resume.

This map shows areas near the BeltLine urban renewal project that are close to high-volume roadways. Credit: Health Impact of the Atlanta BeltLine

This map shows areas near the BeltLine urban renewal project that are close to high-volume roadways. Credit: Health Impact of the Atlanta BeltLine

“The major problem we have here in Atlanta is air pollution from traffic.” Fuller said in a statement. “We want to find out where people along the Beltline are getting their exercise. Is it near a high traffic area where the potential for exposure is higher or is it through a park?”

A BeltLine health impact assessment completed in 2007 provides a good starting point for Fuller’s project. The 2007 report was coordinated by Catherine Ross, of Georgia Tech, with assistance from others including the CDC.

The 2007 report addressed air quality in some surprising ways. For instance, vehicle emissions are one familiar concern related to the BeltLine. The BeltLine often is portrayed as a project that will improve air quality by providing alternate modes of transportation.

The 2007 report noted that residents of more than 1,400 new homes expected to be built near the BeltLine could be exposed to high levels of air pollution. These homes are projected to be built near highways or railyards, which emit the size of particles associated with heart and lung illnesses.

Fuller expects to examine the health impact the BeltLine paths near high-traffic areas, according to the GSU statement. Her work may include the Inman and Tilford railroad yards, which are the two yards along the BeltLine.

Another air quality concern is fugitive dust that will result from building the BeltLine’s trails and amenities, and structures near the BeltLine, according to the 2007 report.

Christina Fuller

Christina Fuller

Fugitive dust is comprised of soil minerals that are released into the atmosphere by earth-moving activities, according to a report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. They have been associated with heart and lung illnesses. Many particles settle within a few hundred feet from their origin, though smaller particles can be spread much farther on the wind.

The new research project will include a statistical analysis that will be guided by Scott Weaver, a research assistant professor in GSU’s School of Public Health. The results will enable the policy makers who oversee the BeltLine’s development to make informed decisions.

“We have the opportunity, and the obligation, to positively impact each unique neighborhood around the Atlanta BeltLine,” Paul Morris, the BeltLine’s president/CEO said in the statement. “Our job is to create a healthy, vibrant environment for everyone by building the foundations to work, learn, play and shop near where they live.”

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

10 replies
  1. Burroughston Broch says:

    This will be another government report in which the conclusions are written first, and then the rest of the report developed to support the conclusions. But the final report will be thick, as the worth of government reports is judged by the foot.
    $100,000/400 = $250 cost per person interviewed.Report

    Reply
  2. Burroughston Broch says:

    dwileyjr34 Burroughston Broch You are quite welcome. I prefer to think of myself as the eternal optimist who expects the worst and is occasionally surprised when something doesn’t run off the rails.
    If you have any experience with government reports (which I do), you know the conclusions are always written first.Report

    Reply
  3. dwileyjr34 says:

    Burroughston Broch Ha, fair enough.  As someone who is fairly familiar with University research projects and the CDC, I would politely disagree that any conclusions have been made.  Postulations, perhaps, based on educated guesses and sample information; however, foregone conclusions is a bit of a stretch for students (who will be doing the fieldwork and would bristle at the mention of the possibility of this) and the CDCReport

    Reply
  4. Burroughston Broch says:

    dwileyjr34 Burroughston Broch According to the article, “there’s a great deal of interest in the degree to which the BeltLine can improve the physical and mental well being of people who live near it or use it regularly.”
    And you think this report would ever state that living in proximity of the BeltLine is injurious for your health?Report

    Reply
  5. dwileyjr34 says:

    Burroughston Broch Any significant findings that show the area to be ‘hazardous’ can be undercut by significant findings showing that it can be beneficial to your health.  Regardless of how the data/facts is interpreted, there will be some excellent data/facts derived from the study for whoever cares enough to access the findings instead of reading the articles written by those with agendas.Report

    Reply
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