Built Environment

The materials around us will speak to us of the highest hopes we have for ourselves.

— Alain de Botton

The built environment includes all of the physical parts of where we live and work, such as our homes, buildings, streets, and open spaces. The built environment can influence a person’s level of physical activity, as well as access to other health promoting behaviors such as healthy food, jobs, and education. For example, inaccessible or nonexistent sidewalks and bicycle or walking paths contribute to sedentary habits. For individuals who do not have a car, they may also lead to inability to easily access healthy foods. These habits lead to poor health outcomes such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer. Today, approximately two thirds of Americans are overweight. 

In order to address these issues, healthy community design can be encouraged through collaboration with public health, planning, elected and appointed officials, architects, business owners, and transportation agencies (1). 

Transportation


Vehicle Access

Definition

This indicator is presented as the number of households without vehicle access in Tulsa County in 2018, based on American Community Survey 5-year estimates.

How are we doing?

In 2018, 6.8 percent of Tulsa County households did not have access to a vehicle.  This was higher than Oklahoma (5.6 percent) and lower than the US (8.7 percent).  This trend has been consistent since 2011, and all locations have been relatively stable over that time period.

The percentages of households with no vehicle access from 2011 to 2018 were consistently higher in the Downtown and North Tulsa regions.  Both of these regions have been over 12.5 percent since 2011, with the percentages in the Downtown region being higher and also more variable across the time period.   

The two zip codes with the highest percentages of households with no vehicle access were 74106 (21.9 percent) in the North Tulsa region, and 74119 (19.8 percent) in the Downtown region.  The Downtown region has much more access to other forms of transportation, such as buses than the North Tulsa region.  




Active Transportation

Definition

This indicator is presented as the percentage of workers who reported that they walked or biked to work in 2018, based on American Community Survey 5-year estimates. It is important to note that this does not include people who walk or bike to destinations that are not work.

Why is this indicator important?

Walking and bicycling can help to reduce roadway congestion. Many streets and highways carry more traffic than they were designed to handle, resulting in gridlock, wasted time and energy, pollution, and driver frustration and stress.  Walking and bicycling require significantly less space per traveler than driving.  Roadway improvements to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists also can enhance safety for motorists. 

Health benefits of regular physical activity such as walking and biking include reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other chronic conditions, decreased healthcare costs, and improved quality of life. Walking and biking are also affordable forms of transportation, meaning that people can spend or save more on other expenses (4). 


How are we doing?

In 2018, 1.6 percent of Tulsa County workers reported that they walked or biked to work. This was lower than both Oklahoma (2 percent) and the US (3.3 percent). This trend has been consistent since 2011. Additionally, the percentage of workers in Tulsa County reporting commuting via active transportation has decreased slightly from 2011 (1.9 percent to 1.6 percent).

When examining the percentages of those who reported walking or biking to work we see a large amount of variability.  The Downtown region shows the most striking variability, but this region has remained consistently higher on the percentages for this indicator since 2011.  The Downtown region appears to have hit a high peak, of over 50 percent in 2012, after which it declined sharply.  Five of the eight regions have been under 10 percent since 2011, while three regions (Downtown, North Tulsa and Midtown) - while showing wide variations - consistently had higher percentages than the other regions.  Walking or biking to work was most common in zip codes 74103, 74119, 74120, and 74117.  Zip codes 74103, 74119 and 74120 are all in the Downtown region. 

Housing


Housing-burdened

Definition

This indicator is the percentage of households spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing in Tulsa County in 2018, based on American Community Survey 5-year estimates. It is presented as mortgage holders and renters separately.

Why is this indicator important?

In addition to meeting the basic need for shelter, housing can also be a component of efforts to promote positive life outcomes for low- and moderate-income families.  Research shows that affordable housing has the capacity to help improve residents’ health, access to education, and employment prospects.  Conversely, high housing cost burdens are associated with negative life outcomes such as declines in mental health, reduced parental enrichment spending and cognitive achievement for low- and moderate-income children, and reduced educational attainment among children.

Housing affordability has traditionally been measured using the 'greater than 30 percent of household income' standard.  However, this may ignore trade-offs that are necessary to obtain 'affordable' housing.  For example, housing with lower rents may be located far from employment, which would require higher transportation costs and longer commutes.  Current research is examining alternative measures for housing affordability (5). 

How are we doing?

In 2018, 48.9 percent of renters and 23.0 percent of individuals with a mortgage spent more than 30 percent of their income on housing in Tulsa County. Tulsa County had a lower percentage of both mortgage holders and renters who were housing burdened compare to the US (mortgage holders, 28.7 percent; renters, 54.5 percent).  Rates in Tulsa County and Oklahoma were very similar.  These trends have been true since 2011.

In general, the rate of housing-burdened households has decreased in Tulsa County since 2011.  The percentage of renters who were housing-burdened decreased more slowly from 2011 to 2017, after which we see a sharp jump from 2017 to 2018.  Interestingly, this trend was true for Oklahoma and the US overall as well during the same time period.

The graph to the right showing the percentages of mortgage holders who are reported to be housing-burdened clearly illustrates the North Tulsa region at higher percentages than the rest of the Tulsa County area regions.  The rest of the regions cluster together at or under 30 percent across the time period reported.  Most of the regions show a decrease in the percentage of mortgage holders who are housing-burdened from 2011 to 2018.  In terms of the percentages of renters who were reportedly housing-burdened regionally from 2011 to 2018, we see that the North Tulsa region consistently had higher percentages on this indicator than the other regions in Tulsa County.  In addition, the percentages of renters who were reportedly housing-burdened across the Tulsa County region sharply increased from 2017 to 2018.

The zip code with the highest percentages of housing-burdened households in terms of mortgage holders was 74103 in the Downtown region.   In terms of renters, the zip code with the highest percentage of those housing-burdened was 74126 in the North Tulsa region.  Additionally, there were high rates of housing-burdened households in (both mortgage holders and renters) for zip codes in the North Tulsa region (74106, 74110 and 74130), although the percentages of renters who are considered to be housing-burdened was relatively high across many zip codes in Tulsa County.. 


Substandard Housing

Definition

This indicator is the percentage of households with inadequate kitchen or plumbing facilities, presented separately. Data is from 2018 and is based on American Community Survey 5-year estimates for Tulsa County.

Why is this indicator important?

Good health depends on having homes that are safe and free from physical hazards such as poor indoor air quality, lead paint, and lack of home safety devices. Adequate housing can protect individuals and families and provide them with security, privacy, stability and control.  Inadequate housing can contribute to health problems such as infectious and chronic disease, injuries, and poor childhood development.  Families with fewer financial resources are more likely to experience unhealthy and unsafe housing conditions and are usually less able to remedy them, contributing to disparities in health across socioeconomic groups (6).

How are we doing?

In 2018, 0.2 percent of Tulsa County households had inadequate plumbing facilities and 0.7 percent had inadequate kitchen facilities. These percentages have decreased overall since 2011.  Tulsa County had a lower percentage of households with inadequate plumbing and kitchen facilities compared to both Oklahoma and the US. This trend has been consistent since 2013. 

When examining the graph at the right showing the percentages of households without adequate plumbing facilities by region, it is important to note that all of the percentages are under 1 percent.  The variability that is apparent in the graph is exaggerated by the scale of the graph.  However, there is not a clear pattern to be seen when examining this indicator by region.  For the percentages of households without adequate kitchen facilities by region, we see a slight but general decrease from 2011 to 2018 for most of the regions.  The exception to this pattern is the Downtown region, which increased steadily from 2011 to 2016, after which it began declining.  

Although most zip codes had low percentages of households that had inadequate plumbing or kitchen facilities, zip code 74130 in the North Tulsa region had over 2 percent of households with inadequate facilities on both of these indicators. This percentage is significantly higher than that for Tulsa County overall.


Vacant Houses

Definition

This indicator is presented as the number of vacant housing units in Tulsa County in 2018, based on American Community Survey 5-year estimates. 

Why is this indicator important?

Vacant homes have potential to increase blight in a neighborhood, increase diseases spread through rodents, and serve as areas for increased crime.  New studies are focusing on how urban blight can influence public health, and what types of interventions can effectively address this problem (7).

How are we doing?

In 2018, 10.6 percent of Tulsa County housing units were vacant.  This was lower than both Oklahoma (14.4 percent) and the US (12.2 percent). The percentage of vacant units has remained relatively stable for all Tulsa County and the US from 2011 to 2018, but has shown a slight increase in Oklahoma during the same time period.  Oklahoma has also consistently had higher percentages of vacant units than the US and Tulsa County over the time period examined.

Two of the Tulsa County regions were consistently higher on this indicator than the other regions, the Downtown and the North Tulsa regions.  While this indicator has remained relatively stable for most regions in Tulsa County (including the North Tulsa region), the percentage in the Downtown region has increased steadily from 2015 to 2018.  

The zip codes with the highest percentages of vacant housing units were 74117 and 74130, which are located in the North Tulsa region; and 74119 in the Downtown region.  

Food Environment


Access to Healthy Food

Definition

This indicator is presented as the percentage of Tulsa County adults who reported that healthy food was easy to access in their neighborhood, based on Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data from 2018.

Why is this indicator important?

Healthy food retailers, such as grocery stores and farmers' markets, are critical components of healthy, thriving communities.  Without access to healthy foods, a nutritious diet and good health can be out of reach for many individuals.  Healthy food retailers such as large grocery stores can also serve as catalysts for economic development and commercial revitalization (8). 

How are we doing?

About half of Tulsa County adults (51 percent) who responded to the BRFSS reported that healthy food was easy to access in their neighborhood.  This was lower than Oklahoma (65.4 percent).  From 2012 to 2017, Tulsa County had higher percentages on this indicator than Oklahoma.  The lower percentages reported for Tulsa County in 2018 data may not reflect the complete data set for the year, however, as this data was checked in August of 2020 and all data may not have been entered at that time.

There was not enough data for any racial category other than white, non-hispanic on this indicator to be reported.  

In terms of age group, almost 60 percent (59.9 percent) of adults age 45-54 reported having access to healthy food in their neighborhoods in Tulsa County, compared to 60.8 for the same age group for Oklahoma overall.  Adults with an income between $50,000 and $74,000 were the most likely to respond that it was easy to get healthy food in their neighborhood. Additionally, those with a high school education were most likely to report this.  Data is shown for categories for which there was enough data to report.


Affordability

Definition

This indicator is presented as the percentage of Tulsa County adults who reported that healthy food was affordable in their neighborhood, based on BRFSS data from 2018.

Why is this indicator important?

As the obesity epidemic has worsened, there  has been significant focus on access to healthy and affordable food from community members and organizations, as well as policymakers.  Communities of color and low-income communities often live in areas with limited access to healthy, affordable food, and must choose to either make do with foods available at smaller stores, which are often more expensive and less healthy, or travel farther distances for a full service grocery store (8).

How are we doing?

In 2018, less than 50 percent (42 percent) of adults  who responded to the BRFSS in Tulsa County reported that healthy foods were affordable in their neighborhood.  This was lower than for Oklahoma overall in 2018 (56.7 percent). 

In Tulsa County, 44 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 reported that healthy food was affordable in their neighborhood.  Those with incomes between $50,000 and $74,999 had the highest percentage of adults reporting affordable healthy foods in their neighborhoods.  Additionally, the percentages of adults reporting having affordable healthy food in their neighborhoods increased as educational attainment increased.  

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