Date of Paper/Work


Type of Paper/Work

Doctoral Project

Degree Name

Doctor of Occupational Therapy


Occupational Science/Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

Julie D. Bass, Ph.D., OTR/L, FAOTA


Doctor of Occupational Therapy


There is an intricate relationship between participation in occupations that involve physical activity and overall health and well-being. Occupational therapy emphasizes the physical environment as a critical factor that serves as a support or barrier to occupational performance. However, there are few evaluations of densely populated urban neighborhoods for the features that promote physical activity. Chinatown, New York City, was selected as a case study for an environmental evaluation because it has defined boundaries and recent studies have identified chronic conditions of Chinatown residents that may be prevented or managed through physical activity.

This project used an occupational therapy perspective to analyze the natural and built structures within a neighborhood and identify environmental supports and barriers to physical activity. The following are the aims of this project: 1) compare environment assessments of the physical environment 2) evaluate and analyze the natural and built environment of Chinatown for its supports and barriers to physical activity for the residents using an environmental assessment, photography and mapping 3) obtain feedback on the evaluation findings from key stakeholders living in Chinatown.

Five environmental assessment tools were piloted on two segments of Chinatown. The Irvine Minnesota Inventory Checklist and photography were selected and used to analyze and describe the built-in and natural physical environment of Chinatown. A summary of the findings and results of the assessment were shared with the Chinese-American Planning Council, Inc., an organization serving immigrants and low-income communities and families in New York City. A feedback form was also sent with the summary.

The Irvine Minnesota Inventory Checklist was the most appropriate tool to evaluate an urban and densely populated community such as Chinatown. The result of this project showed that there are more opportunities for improvement in the built-in environment, most specifically in the domains of pleasurability, accessibility, and perceived safety from crime. An occupational therapy perspective in analyzing the natural and built environment can be helpful in identifying the assets and barriers to performance of physical activity. Occupational therapy can make recommendations to strengthen the features of the physical environment and support programs that promote community health