Posted by: benj2919 | May 18, 2010

First Attempt at Field Research (Assignment Three)

Parking lots, strip malls, and fast food? Or parks, bike lanes, and running trails? The environment and culture we living in can seem to make a big difference regarding the overall health of a society.  The physical environment could make getting exercise more convenient or necessary, and a culture could favor healthy diets and staying away from harmful habits (alcohol or tobacco).  For example, while living in a cubical-sized apartment in Tokyo, I was more inclined to spend most of my time outdoors. I was up and walking much more frequently during the day, and I filled my free time with activities such as sports. I noticed this was the case for most of the people around me as well – no one spent much free time indoors. This may be a cause for the legendary health and longevity of the Japanese people. Could environmental and cultural factors like these affect the health of people in Amsterdam?

With this question in mind, my partners, Colin and Nathaniel, and I took a bike ride down to the UW Medical Center passing the Burke Gilman trail and the IMA on our way. On a Sunday afternoon, the Burke Gilman trail is as busy as a freeway. We observed bikers, walkers, and runners. There were those in sports wear and bikers geared up looking like Lance Armstrong – obviously using the trail specifically for exercise.  Riders with large bags and more casual clothes also passed by, utilizing biking and the trail as a mode of transportation. At the IMA, the drone of exercise machines echoed around the building. Despite the nice weather, lots of people were around the various gyms and fitness rooms. Finally, we stopped at the UW Medical Center. The stylish modern lobby was welcoming, and we visitors milling about.

After completing the site visit, we formulated a research question along these lines: How does the physical and cultural environment affect the health of people in Amsterdam? What specifically contributes of detracts from the health of society in Amsterdam? To answer these questions, we could examine the typical lifestyle of a person living in Amsterdam. Surveys and questionnaires could be used to gain insight into how often people exercise, what people eat regularly, and how frequently people become sick. Do people in Amsterdam have particularly unhealthy habits (alcohol or tobacco)? An interesting investigation would be if the popularity of bicycles has made Amsterdam a more healthy society. We could use interviews as primary sources to understand how bicycling contributes to the average person’s health. Data regarding how often and how long people in Amsterdam ride their bikes in a given time period could be collected. The biggest hurdle will be deciding what makes a “healthy” society. To create a reference point, we could compare Amsterdam to other cities or places around the world.


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