Built Environment and Policy Approaches to Health Behaviors

The Health Behaviors Research Branch supports multilevel policy relevant research that addresses the relationship between health behaviors, policy, and cancer prevention, in topics such as nutrition, physical activity and skin cancer prevention policy.

A policy approach to understanding health behavior is grounded in the socio-ecological model, which posits that individual behavior is the product of social-contextual influences as well as individual-level predispositions. The underlying assumption of the approach is that policies at the macro-level are expected to have an impact on the micro-environment and on social norms that may, in turn, affect individual behavior.

Research is necessary to determine multilevel influences on cancer-relevant behavior, to develop empirical approaches to policy assessment, to refine person-by-context measurement methodology, and to evaluate intervention approaches that target policy, social-context environment, and individual health behavior.

Built Environment and Geospatial Approaches

The built environment is an important and emerging area of research related to cancer prevention and control. The built environment shapes individuals’ exposures to resources important for cancer prevention and control, such as access to safe areas for physical activity, affordable and healthy food, and cancer treatment providers.

Geospatial approaches include the use of location-based technologies such as geographic information systems (GIS), global positioning systems (GPS), or improved mapping techniques and applied spatial methodology. Geospatial methods are an innovative way to shed light on the relationship between aspects of the built environment and behaviors related to cancer prevention. Additional research is needed to integrate and analyze geospatial data and/or spatial methodology across the cancer control continuum.

School Physical Education and Nutrition Policy

The Classification of Laws Associated with School Students (CLASS) protects the well-being of students by monitoring, classifying, and evaluating physical education and nutrition policies across the U.S. The CLASS website allows researchers to visualize data using interactive maps and tables, compare data by grade level and state, and examine trends over time.

Healthy Communities Study

The goal of the Healthy Communities Study (HCS) was to understand how characteristics of community programs and policies relate to children's eating, physical activity behaviors, and their health. Findings from the HCS have helped inform community leaders about what types of programs and policies may help children's health.

Learn more about the Healthy Communities Study

Funding Opportunities

Title Announcement # Expiration Date Contact
Time-Sensitive Obesity Policy and Program Evaluation PAR-21-305 (R01 Clinical Trial Not Allowed) September 11, 2024 David Berrigan
Notice of Special Interest (NOSI): Obesity Policy Evaluation Research NOT-DK-20-035 (R01 Clinical Trial Not Allowed) September 8, 2023 David Berrigan



Watson KB, Whitfield GP, Thomas JV, Berrigan D, Fulton JE, Carlson SA. Associations between the National Walkability Index and walking among US Adults - National Health Interview Survey, 2015. Prev Med. 2020 Aug;137:106122. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2020.106122 Exit Disclaimer.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. TR Circular E-C264: Conference on Health and Active Transportation Exit Disclaimer. Washington, D.C.; 2019.

Perez LG, Ruiz JM, Berrigan D. Neighborhood Environment Perceptions among Latinos in the U.S. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Aug 23;16(17):3062. doi:10.3390/ijerph16173062 Exit Disclaimer.

Whitfield GP, Carlson SA, Ussery EN, Watson KB, Berrigan D, Fulton JE. National-level environmental perceptions and walking among urban and rural residents: Informing surveillance of walkability. Prev Med. 2019 Jun;123:101-108. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2019.03.019 Exit Disclaimer.

Korycinski RW, Tennant BL, Cawley MA, Bloodgood B, Oh AY, Berrigan D. Geospatial approaches to cancer control and population sciences at the United States cancer centers. Cancer Causes Control. 2018 Mar;29(3):371-377. doi:10.1007/s10552-018-1009-0 Exit Disclaimer.


Last Updated
September 16, 2021