Objective To assess the association between characteristics of the built environment and differences in perceived health among persons with spinal cord injury (SCI) using objective measures of the local community derived from Geographic Information Systems data. Design Secondary analysis of cross-sectional survey data. Setting Community. Participants Persons with chronic SCI enrolled in the Spinal Cord Injury Model Systems database (N=503). All cases were residents of New Jersey, completed an interview during the years 2000 through 2012, had a complete residential address, and were community living at the time of follow-up. Interventions Not applicable. Main Outcome Measure Perceived health. Results Bivariate tests indicated that persons with SCI residing in communities with more (vs less) mixed land use and small (vs large) amounts of open space were more likely to report poor perceived health. No associations were found between perceived health and differences in the residential or destination density of the community. Adjusting for variation in demographic, impairment, quality of life, and community socioeconomic characteristics accounted for the gap in the odds of reporting poor health between persons living in areas with large versus small amounts of open space (odds ratio [OR], 0.54; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.28-1.02). However, even after accounting for individual background differences, persons living in communities characterized by more heterogeneous land use were twice as likely to report poor health compared with persons living in less mixed areas (OR, 2.14; 95% CI, 1.12-4.08). Conclusions Differences in the built characteristics of communities may be important to the long-term health and well-being of persons with SCI who may have greater exposure to the features of their local area because of limited mobility. The results of this study suggest living in a community with more heterogeneous land use was not beneficial to the perceived health of persons with chronic SCI living in New Jersey. Further investigation is needed to assess if the relationships observed in this analysis are influenced by differences in infrastructure and resources across communities. Further research is also needed to investigate the role built environment plays in the long-term health and well-being of persons with SCI in other geographic locales.
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