Aisha Bhimla
Aisha Bhimla

The American Public Health Association has named Temple researcher Aisha Bhimla winner of the Best Student Poster Presentation award (in the Physical Activity section) at October’s APHA Annual Meeting.

Bhimla, who earned her PhD in kinesiology at the College of Public Health earlier this year, is a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Asian Health in Temple’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine. At the APHA conference, held virtually this year, she presented her research about how the physical activity of Asian Americans in urban environments is affected by the way they perceive the characteristics of their neighborhoods. The poster research is a portion of her PhD work, which she completed to earn her doctoral degree in May.

“This kind of research has been done in other populations, in other parts of the U.S., but there's a lack of representation of Asian American participants in these studies,” Bhimla says.

Her study included a survey of Asian American immigrants in neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia, most of whom were well-educated, low income-earning and not native English speakers. They were asked how they perceived the safety, aesthetics, accessibility and other aspects of their neighborhoods. Those perceptions were correlated with how much they walk or ride bicycles, either for functional transportation or recreation. 

The study found that neighborhood perceptions regarding walkability can limit or promote physical activity in a predominantly Asian American immigrant population. The findings, Bhimla says, are similar to other urban populations, with the exception that perceived neighborhood walkability was not associated with active transportation (such as walking to work) in this sample. The findings could be used to inform environmental and policy strategies to increase physical activity in these neighborhoods and improve the overall health of residents.