BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Award-winning urban planner Samina Raja, Ph.D.,
assistant professor in the Department of Urban and Regional
Planning in the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and
Planning, conducts interdisciplinary community research aimed at
improving life in Buffalo and Western New York.
Now she has been awarded a $105,000 contract from the Buffalo
Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC) to study physical activity levels
among the 6,000 employees on the medical campus in relation to
improvements made to its infrastructure and streetscape.
The project, "Evaluating the Effect of Infrastructure
Improvements in Workplaces on the Physical Activity of Employees,"
will use a two-stage survey to conduct what Raja calls a "natural
experiment" in that her team will audit levels of physical activity
before and after improvements are made to the physical
The survey instrument will be designed in consultation with
architecture and design consultants overseeing the design and
implementation of the improvements.
"There has been research that looks at how the design of a
neighborhood's sidewalks, streets, and land-use patterns affect the
physical activity levels of adults living there," Raja says. "Ours,
however, will be the first of its kind to look at how such changes
influence physical activity level around a work site."
She adds that her research team will coordinate this study with
larger efforts by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to evaluate
similar projects focused on by its nationwide Active Living by
Matthew Enstice, executive director with Buffalo Niagara Medical
Campus, says "The BNMC Streetscape and Infrastructure Improvement
Program is intended to ensure multi-modal access, develop a
pedestrian-oriented and campus-like environment, and cultivate a
sense of place."
He adds that the program also aims to promote a healthy
community by integrating the medical campus with the surrounding
neighborhoods. With this in mind, Raja's study may be expanded to
audit activity changes among those living in the area immediately
adjacent to the BNMC.
"The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus is committed to creating an
environment that supports active living and healthy lifestyles,"
"Dr. Raja will help us better understand how streetscape
improvements should be designed so as to have a positive impact on
the health of our employees, patients, visitors and
surrounding neighborhoods. We are excited about the
partnership and consider the project a national model."
Raja's community research projects often are interdisciplinary
and collaborative in nature. They have included a study of the
influence of the built environment on physical activity and obesity
among youth, with Li Yin, Ph.D., UB assistant professor of urban
and regional planning, and pediatricians Leonard H. Epstein, M.D.,
UB Distinguished Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, School
of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and research professor,
Department of Psychology, College of Arts and Sciences, and James
Roemmich, M.D., UB assistant professor of pediatrics.
In the area of fiscal impacts, she is currently studying, along
with William Page, UB professor of urban and regional planning, the
impact of intergovernmental transfers on promoting sprawl in New
Her research of healthy communities and food systems planning is
one in which Raja collaborates with Buffalo's Massachusetts Avenue
Project (MAP) and the west side community it serves to study ways
to build and strengthen sustainable food systems in the city of
Buffalo. In 2005, MAP won a national award from the American
Association of Certified Planners (AICP).
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public
university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State
University of New York.
Founded in 2001 by a consortium of the region's premier
research, clinical care, and academic institutions, the Buffalo
Niagara Medical Campus is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the
cultivation of a world-class medical campus for clinical care,
research, education, and entrepreneurship on 100 acres in downtown