Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Science




Gilliland, J.


Researchers from a variety of disciplines have produced a large body of evidence indicating that the environment a child lives in can profoundly impact their overall health in a multitude of ways. Among this growing body of literature, there is a wide diversity of methodologies and general inconsistency in how the physical environment is conceptualized and delineated. The primary purpose of this study is to gain a better understanding of how the physical (natural and built) environment is conceptualized in children’s health studies and to quantify how children engage with their environment. Using a multi-tool protocol, 128 children in grades 4 through 8 from four elementary schools in rural Northwestern Ontario participated in two 7-day data collection periods. GPS data within GIS were used to determine various delineations of their physical environment and quantify the extent to which children interact with different land uses and levels of greenness. The results suggest that how we conceptualize a child’s physical environment has a significant impact on estimates of environmental accessibility, exposures, and engagements, which in turn can influence the researcher’s interpretation of the relationship between environment and health. This research helps to fill gaps in knowledge on what environments can influence rural children’s overall health. The findings from this study can help knowledge users to develop effective policies, programs, and services which are appropriate for children living in rural environments.