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A Seed Idea for a Smart-Phone App Cross-Sectional Study of Urban Design Influences on Gait dynamics
If movement and posture data could be collected from a range of societies covering the breadth of the level of Westernization and depth of cultural heritage, inferences could be made about the influence of the Built Environment on postural health societally. A large dataset would have a place in the design choices affecting communities, sometimes for many decades. These decisions result in visual cues, and the shock absorption qualities and texture of the surfaces which we walk upon that subliminally influence or posture and gait dynamics. This writer believes that the multi-billion dollar Orthotics industry is our reaction to decades-old urban design choices. As opportunities for these civil engineering decisions recur, it would benefit community health to have available information inferring health benefits of specific designs that have already found implementation.
One can get a snapshot of a person’s gait, and information on their structural/functional issues by identifying the pattern of wear on the soles of their shoes. It is also possible to subjectively assess gait dynamics visually by observing how people walk. It is this writer’s experience that when waiting in a crowded public space such as a Shopping Mall, visually assessing posture and gait is a pleasurable pastime. His assessment of many individuals in San Francisco, CA, is that the percentage of the population expressing sub-optimal gait is > 80%, usually observing finding lateral rotation of one or both feet.
Visually assessed data can be collected using a basic Smartphone-based application. Once learning the assessment guidelines, covered in a short video on gait embedded within the app, the user could begin collecting Cross-Sectional gait data with the app. Watching people walk, noticing how they use their feet, and pressing one of three buttons: [0° Deviation], [>10%(between 0° and 90°)Deviation], [one or both feet direction from gait vector]. The app would send data to a server to be correlated geographically and made available within the app as a report of the functionality of gait by region. The total number of assessments and the total of assessments by that user would also be reported.
Learning how to improve one’s gait takes persistence and a solid grasp of functional gait dynamics. This App would be a helpful tool to encourage people to maintain focus on this task as well as to improve their understanding of the mechanics involved. Noticing dysfunctional gait is a potent reminder to check one’s gait biomechanics.
A statistically significant correlation in a large data set between urban design choices and deviations of postural optimization could:
1) Assist in incentivizing civil engineering projects to embed more posturally supportive structures into designs (examples in Built Environment paper).
2) Help to motivate individuals to consciously “push back” against subtle, debilitating attributes of the Built Environment.
3) Support the upgrade of WALK SIGN Signage in Our Urban Areas project.
Discussion of projects relating to optimizing Stance and Gait
TRAINING AND RESEARCH INNOVATIONS
An overview of foot structural and functional issues and means to optimize how we use our feet: