Physically inactive lifestyles are becoming more prevalent worldwide, as are the chronic diseases they cause. To change behavior on a population-wide basis, it is important to understand the underlying forces responsible for current patterns and trends. Among the many possible factors that are being studied, physical environment variables are particularly promising. There is substantial evidence linking the design of communities and access to recreational facilities with active transportation and recreation. Land development practices in many countries are increasingly based on automobile-oriented, suburban patterns that are risk factors for inactivity and overweight. Better understanding of how to create “activity-friendly” communities can advance science and can lead to evidence-based policy recommendations. Country-specific data are needed to provide evidence that is credible to policy makers.

In 2000, Drs. Sallis, Saelens, and Frank were awarded a National Institutes of Health grant to study the environmental correlates of physical activity in the U.S. using objective measures of environments (Geographic Information Systems) and physical activity (Actigraphs). This is the Neighborhood Quality of Life Study (NQLS). In 2002, Dr. Owen was awarded a grant to conduct the PLACE study in Australia.  In 2007-2008, Dr. De Bourdeadhuij used a similar study design to NQLS and PLACE in the Belgian Environmental Physical Activity Study (BEPAS). With these three studies serving as the foundation, the time was right to advocate for similar studies to be conducted in other countries, and there would be many advantages to using common study designs and measures. IPEN was formed to invite and support investigators around the world to participate in this new area of research that we believe has great public health significance. The core team has since been joined by Dr. Jacqueline Kerr who has experience conducting research in Europe and is now based in San Diego.

In 2009, the IPEN Study was launched to further the field by addressing underestimated associations of environmental correlates of physical activity due to the limited range of environments in any single country.  Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the IPEN Study will pool data from at least 14 countries to estimate strengths of association between detailed measures of the built environment and physical activity in adults. 

In order to engage and expand then international network that IPEN has supported, the ISPAH Council on Environment and Physical Activity (CEPA) was formed in Toronto in May of 2010.  With initial leadership from the IPEN Network, CEPA supports investigators from multiple disciplines around the world to conduct rigorous research on physical activity and the environment and use the results to advocate for evidence-based environmental and policy changes to support and promote physical activity internationally. 

Neighborhood Quality of Life Studies (United States):

NQLS Adults (2001-2005)

NQLS Older Adults (2004-2008)

NQLS Adolescents (2004-2008)

PLACE (Australia):

Physical Activity in Localities and Community Environments (PLACE)

PLACE report now available for download: An Account of Spatially Based Survey Methods and Recruitment Outcomes

James F. Sallis, Ph.D.

James F. Sallis, Ph.D is newly appointed Distinguished Professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at University of California, San Diego. He also is Director of Active Living Research, a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  His primary research interests are promoting physical activity and understanding policy and environmental influences on physical activity, nutrition, and obesity.  He is the author of over 500 scientific publications, on the editorial boards of several journals, and one of the world's most cited authors in the social sciences.  He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the President's  Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition, and  Time Magazine identified him as an "obesity warrior".


Neville Owen, Ph.D.


Ilse De Bourdeaudhuij, Ph.D.


Lawrence D. Frank, Ph.D., AICP, ASLA

Dr. Frank is a Professor in Sustainable Transportation at the University of British Columbia and the President of Urban Design 4 Health, Inc. He holds a PhD in Urban Planning & Design from the College of Architecture & Urban Planning at the University of Washington. He specializes in the interaction between land use, travel behavior, air quality; and health and the fuel consumption and climate change impacts of urban form policies.  Dr. Frank has done fundamental, groundbreaking research on the effects of neighborhood walkability on travel patterns and sustainability for 20 years and has led over $18 million in funded research. He has published over 100 peer reviewed articles and reports on these topics for a diverse range of journals such as Transportation, Journal of the American Planning Association, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, and Social Science and Medicine. He has been a co-investigator on all of the Neighborhood Quality of Life (NQLS) suite of studies including NQLS Prime, NQLS Seniors, the Neighborhood Impact on Kids (NIK) Study, the Teen Environment & Neighborhood Study (TEAN) and IPEN. He has a unique understanding of the public health implications of land use decisions and provides leadership in the analysis and characterization of the built environment and its impact on participant health and physical activity.


Jacqueline Kerr, Ph.D.


jacqueline kerr

Dr Kerr received her PhD from the University of Birmingham, England, in 2001 studying interventions and environments that promote stair use. After 3 years in the Munich Cancer Registry focusing on quality of life and breast/colorectal cancer, Dr Kerr moved to Active Living Research in San Diego. Dr Kerr is currently an Associate Professor at UCSD in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, and researcher in the Center for Wireless and Population Health Systems at the Qualcomm Institute, Calit2. Dr Kerr’s research focuses on measurement, intervention and environmental correlates of physical activity and sedentary behavior in older adults.

Dr Kerr works on several NIH funded R01 projects with Dr Sallis on neighborhood correlates of physical activity in children, teens, adults and older adults, including two IPEN studies in adults and teens.

Dr Kerr leads several NCI funded projects collecting and processing GPS data, including developing software to aggregate and process GPS data. Dr Kerr has lead a review and several workshops on this topic and can help researchers include GPS data in their projects with protocols for IRBs, data collection, processing, matching with GIS etc.

Dr Kerr is PI of two NCI funded R01 grants using Machine Learning techniques to classify physical activity types and sedentary behaviors from raw accelerometer, GPS and heart rate data. Annotated truth images from a SenseCam person worn camera are employed in this work and Dr Kerr is helping to advance this field.

Dr Kerr’s expertise in physical activity and location measurement inform improved evaluation of behavior change interventions. An example is the NHLBI funded MIPARC study in Continuing Care Retirement Communities, which includes community advocacy.

For an up to date publications list see Google Scholar.


Terry Conway, Ph.D.

Dr. Conway is a Senior Research Investigator in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine; and also is an Adjunct Doctoral Faculty Member in the Graduate School of Public Health, San Diego State University. She earned her Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Michigan, and has co-authored over 100 peer-reviewed publications. Dr. Conway has served as co-investigator and data management director on the series of Dr. Sallis’ studies examining physical activity and the built environment, including the original Neighborhood Quality of Life Study (NQLS) and the subsequent NQLS-based studies with older adults (SNQLS and SNQLS-2 follow-up) and adolescents (TEAN and IPEN-Adolescent). Dr. Conway has served as principal investigator, co-investigator, and/or measurement director on large-scale observational studies, quasi-experimental studies, and intervention trials funded by NIH/NHLBI, University of California, and DoD grants. She has extensive hands-on experience creating survey and accelerometer measures, and using a variety of multivariate data analysis procedures. Collaboration with Dr. Sallis’ team has spanned over 15 years. Dr. Conway is a co-investigator on the IPEN project, and at the San Diego Coordinating Center she provides primary oversight for data management and quality control to produce cross-country databases for pooled analyses. She also serves on the Publications Committee.


Marc Adams, Ph.D.

Dr. Adams is an Assistant Professor of Exercise and Wellness in the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion at Arizona State University.  He received his Ph.D. in Public Health with an emphasis on Health Behavior in 2009 from the University of California, San Diego and a Master's in Public Health from San Diego State University. He completed a post-doc in 2011 at UCSD under Dr. James Sallis with a focus on physical activity for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease.  Dr. Adams’ work spans the behavioral epidemiology paradigm to explain, predict, and change health behaviors, with a primary focus on physical activity. His interests also include behavioral economic theory, ecological models, adaptive interventions, and objective measurement methodologies of behavior and environments. Dr. Adams was Co-Investigator of a study funded by the RWJ Health Games Research Initiative to support innovative research in the development and use of “exergames” to achieve desirable health outcomes, and he is Principal Investigator of a study funded by the American Heart Association to examine the combined influence of walkability, transportation and recreation environments on physical activity across the lifespan.  Dr. Adams has authored over 25 peer-reviewed papers and several book chapters. His role on IPEN Adult has been to develop common GIS protocols for the measurement of urban design features and to coordinate the activities of GIS teams around the world. Marc enjoys traveling, cooking, hiking and sailing in his spare time.


Kelli Cain


Carrie Geremia


Alexandra Mignano



Kavita Gavand


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