The BEATS Research Programme at the University of Otago is an interdisciplinary and multi-sector programme designed to:
- advance scientific knowledge related to adolescents’ travel to school; and
- provide service to the government, local community and schools.
The programme is based on contemporary ecological models for active transport (walking or cycling) that identify individual, social, environmental and policy influences on behaviour. The core data include objective measurements of physical activity using accelerometers and Geographic Information System analysis of the built environment of home and school neighbourhoods.
The programme has been designed and implemented using a community-based participatory approach with the sustained involvement of key stakeholders. This approach has enabled the BEATS team to generate end-user relevant data, and facilitate knowledge translation into evidence-based policy and planning. BEATS research results are helping inform future interventions for built environment change, education campaigns, school policy development and city policy development. The BEATS Study (2014-2017) achieved 100% school recruitment rate in Dunedin and BEATS findings have already been used by multiple government agencies in New Zealand.
The BEATS Research Programme is a collaboration between the University of Otago, the Dunedin City Council, the Dunedin Secondary Schools' Partnership, the Otago Secondary School Principals' Association, and Auckland University of Technology.
BEATS Natural Experiment
Several Dunedin neighbourhoods have been undergoing on-road and off-road cycling infrastructure construction since 2014 and pedestrian-related infrastructure changes in 2018, affecting 6 out of 12 Dunedin secondary schools. The BEATS Natural Experiment study will examine the effects of these built environment changes on active transport to school and physical activity levels in Dunedin adolescents, as well as adolescents’ perceptions of the school neighbourhood built environment. Data will be collected in schools in 2021–2022 using published research methods. Analysis will include the 2014/2015 BEATS Study data and contemporary ecological models for active transport that account for individual, social, environmental and policy factors. Findings will inform the planning of future built environment and active transport interventions.
|BEATS Rural Study |
|This study examines individual, social, environmental and policy factors influencing active transport to school in adolescents living in rural areas of the Otago region of New Zealand. The study uses the published BEATS Study methodology and conceptual framework. This study has generated valuable rural-specific data to inform future interventions for built environment change, educational campaigns and policy development in rural areas.|
Funding: University of Otago Research Grant and Otago Energy Centre Research Seed Project grant.
|BEATS Cultural Study|
|This study examines what Māori and Pacific adolescents think about their transport to school. Data has been collected in Dunedin and the wider Bay of Plenty. Understanding the local context, including the cultural factors, is essential for identifying and designing effective interventions to promote active transport to school. |
Find out more
|The original BEATS Study examined individual, social, environmental and policy factors influencing active transport to school in adolescents living in Dunedin, New Zealand. The study generated timely, unique and valuable data to inform future interventions for built environment change, educational campaigns and policy development in urban areas.|
Funding: Health Research Council of New Zealand Emerging Researcher First Grant [14/565], National Heart Foundation of New Zealand [1602 and 1615], Lottery Health Research Grant [Applic 341129], University of Otago Research Grant [UORG 2014], Dunedin City Council and internal grants from the School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Otago.
|The Catalyst Project|
(subject to funding)
|This project has been designed to inspire, empower and support adolescents in rural areas of the Otago region to engage with science using the BEATS Rural Study data from their own school. As a part of this project, rural adolescents would develop innovative ways to encourage healthy lifestyle behaviours in their schools and communities.|
Key publications: Study Protocols and Implementation Articles
BEATS Natural Experiment Study Protocol Article
Mandic S, Hopkins D, García Bengoechea E, Moore A, Sandretto S, Coppell K, Ergler C, Keall M, Rolleston A, Kidd G, Wilson G, Spence JC. Built Environment Changes and Active Transport to School among Adolescents: BEATS Natural Experiment Study Protocol. BMJ Open. 2020;10:e034899 Full article
BEATS Study Protocol Article
Mandic S, Williams J, Moore A, Hopkins D, Flaherty C, Wilson G, García Bengoechea E, Spence JC. Built Environment and Active Transport to School (BEATS) Study: Protocol for a cross-sectional study. BMJ Open. 2016;6:e011196. Full article
BEATS Study Planning and Implementation Article
Mandic S, Mountfort A, Hopkins D, Flaherty C, Williams J, Brook E, Wilson G, Moore A. Built Environment and Active Transport to School (BEATS) Study: Multidisciplinary and multi-sector collaboration for physical activity promotion. Retos, 2015. 28: p. 197-202. Full article
If you are interested in more details about the BEATS Research Programme and collaborating with the BEATS Research Team, please contact Dr Sandy Mandic, Principal Investigator.