Learn how to assess the built environment for physical activity and other health-promoting behaviors.

This free introductory course was originally developed by the BEAT Institute. This course is designed to instruct researchers, students, planners, and health practitioners on observational measures for planning and evaluating changes to the built environment for health and wellbeing. Modules of this course offer tools and tricks for assessing streets, parks, trails, and neighborhood landscapes for physical activity.

How to Use the BEAT Course

BEAT is for anyone interested in learning how to understand and evaluate the qualities of a built environment (a neighborhood, city block, street, park/recreation area, greenway, etc.) for the promotion of physical activity and other health behaviors. The Course teaches you about scientifically validated and commonly used tools for assessing these environments. You can use it for yourself, share it with other members of your research or evaluation team, or offer it as a resource for students.

The BEAT Course currently comprises 4 modules. After Module 1, “Introduction to BEAT,” each module covers a particular tool or assessment. In each of these modules, you will learn:

  • The unique purpose and use case of the built environment assessment measure or tool
  • How to use the tool, with examples
  • What about the tool can be customized to meet the needs of your research

Each module contains a narrated instructional video; supporting resources, including protocols, research studies, and instructions for the tools and methods you will learn; and a quiz to test your comprehension.

We recommend beginning with Module 1 and customizing your use of the course from there. You may want to learn about all the methods discussed in the BEAT Course to decide which to use in your research; or, you may want to focus completely on one tool that best suits your needs.

BEAT History and Acknowledgements

From 2008-2012, the BEAT Institute offered week-long training sessions for researchers and practitioners. In 2013, the Institute hosted a think tank meeting on built environment and health science, culminating in the 2015 American Journal of Preventive Medicine theme issue titled “Built Environment Assessment and Interventions for Obesity Prevention: Moving the Field Forward.”

From 2010-2015, the BEAT Institute was funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, 2010-85215-20659, and was sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania Prevention Research Center and the Center for Health Behavior Research, with the University of California, San Diego and San Diego State University Prevention Research Center.

The online BEAT Institute courses were previously hosted at the University of Pennsylvania Prevention Research Center.

In 2021, the People, Health, and Place Unit of the Washington University in St. Louis Prevention Research Center committed to updating and reestablishing the online BEAT Institute training program. Course modules will be added and updated in the years to come.

Contact Us

This site is actively maintained by the Washington University PHP Unit, and will undergo frequent updates as new content becomes available. Contact Research Manager Áine O’Connor at aine.oconnor@wustl.edu with questions.