Agent-based modelling of children’s activity in the built environment to study implications on children’s health

Little boy on a slide at the playground

Agent-based models (ABMs) are valuable tools to examine the impact of the urban environment on certain population health issues. ABMs are computer-based models that explicitly represent individuals (agents) with their characteristics, states and rules of behaviour. The agents are located in a virtual environment where they make decisions, perform actions and interact with one another. The physical environment is explicitly represented and enables the exploration of the implications of interactions of agents with their environment. 

For this project an ABM will simulate children’s activity and mobility in the built environment to examine the impact of the urban landscape on health and well-being issues such as: physical activity and exposure to “environmental bads”.

In the model, children follow a daily schedule of activities such as: attending school, playing in the park, structured sport activities, playing in the neighbourhood and shopping. For each activity, the agents (children) select the relevant land use while considering distance and the number of other agents that visit the site. Transportation mode choice is also modelled for movement between activities.

Children are characterised by socio-economic state, number of cars, gender and tendency to be active, which impact their activities and mobility alternatives. The representation of agents’ characteristics is derived from a census zone statistics. The environment (the city) is based on GIS layers of land use, roads, buildings and shops.

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