BEAT Institute logoThe Built Environment Assessment Training (BEAT) Institute grew out of the recognition that environmental and policy changes are some of the most promising strategies for controlling obesity and improving diet and physical activity.  

A free online introductory course was developed to inform interested users about the variety of observational measures that can be used by researchers, students and practitioners to plan and evaluate changes to the built environment. 

A new introductory course for Built Environment Assessment Training (BEAT) has been updated by the People, Health, and Place Unit of the Washington University in St. Louis Prevention Research Center. Originally developed at the University of Pennsylvania Center for Health Behavior Research and the UPenn Prevention Research Center, the course is designed for planning and evaluating changes to the built environment for health and wellbeing. Specifically, to instruct researchers, students, planners, and health practitioners on observational measures. The modules of this course offer tools and resources for assessing streets, parks, trails, and neighborhood landscapes for physical activity. The measures can be used for planning and evaluating changes to the built environment that promote or impede physical activity in daily life. The new course will be expanded in the coming months.

To contact the UPenn BEAT staff, email us.

If you have questions about the current BEAT course, please contact Research Manager Áine O’Connor at aine.oconnor@wustl.edu.

BEAT's History

From 2008 to 2012, the BEAT Institute offered an intensive week long training for researchers and practitioners to teach them tangible skills that could be used to measure many of the aspects of the built environment believed to have an effect on health. Then in 2013, the Institute hosted a built environment think tank meeting with experts from different disciplines to define the state of the science and strategize for the future. The think tank 's efforts culminated in a 2015 American Journal of Preventive Medicine theme issue titled “Built Environment Assessment and Interventions for Obesity Prevention: Moving the Field Forward."

In 2021, the People, Health, and Place (PHP) Unit of the Washington University in St. Louis Prevention Research Center committed to updating and reestablishing the online BEAT Institute training program. Course modules will be added and updated in the years to come.

We continue to collaborate with the PHP team as they update the courses and site with new and expanded content, including training and tools for measuring nutrition environments.

Funding and Collaborators

The BEAT Institute website and ongoing work is currently supported by the University of Pennsylvania Prevention Research Center.

From 2010-2015, the Institute was funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, 2007-55215-17924 and 2010-85215-20659, with collaboration from the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Health Behavior Research, the Emory Prevention Research Center, the University of Washington Prevention Research Center, the University of California, San Diego and San Diego University Prevention Research Center and the Harvard Prevention Research Center.

Lead contributors to BEAT include Karen Glanz, PhD, MPH,  James F. Sallis PhD, and Brian E. Saelens, PhD.

We often get requests for materials, and this site is active for those who wish to access this information.