The Neighborhood, Sustainable Lifestyle and Health among Adolescents (NELSA)

Västerås, Sweden (2017-2019)

Guiding question: What makes is easy or hard to be physically active in your community?

Citizen Scientists:

24 Swedish adolescents, aged 16-19.

Project Description:

In this project, groups of 2-4 particpating adolescents took thier "usual walk" around thier neighborhoods, using the Discovery Tool app to identify community features that fostered or hindered physical activity. 

After photo collection, the adolescent citizen scientists gathered with staff from Mälardalen University to review the collected photos on a computer screen. Citizen scientists were then able to comment on and discuss each photo for additional insight.

Collectively, the Swedish group took 186 photos. From these photos, 16 key walkability themes across both neighborhoods were identified.

Strengths Identified:

  • Parks and playgrounds
  • Outdoor gyms and amneities
  • Sports facilities


Identified Areas for Improvement:

  • Low walkability and bike-ability 
  • Limited access to public sports facilities
  • Neighborhood safety factors, including poor lighting

Insights and Outcomes:

The identification of limited/poor walkability points are key to make neighborhood changes that promote physical activity among young people. The concern around poor lighiting and personal safety--especially among female adolescents--also highlighted gender-specific perceptions of local environments.

These insights, along with data collected with the Discovery Tool, were shared with city and municipality partners to communicate the identified facilitators and barriers of adolescent health. Participants also shared their expereinces at local events to promote public awareness of project findings. 

Due to the success of the initial project, a second Vasteras-based Our Voice project is also being launched to explore the community faciliators meaningful leisure time and how these activities may affect high school completion. 

Want to learn more?

Check out this video about the NELSA project on Youtube

Institutional Partners:

Mälardalen University Sweden's ACTION Project,  Region Västmanland, Region Sörmland, the City of Västerås, and the Eskilstuna Municipality.

To learn more, contact Katarina Balter at

Associated Publications:

Rydenstam T, Fell T, Buli BG, King AC, Bälter K. Using citizen science to understand the prerequisites for physical activity among adolescents in low socioeconomic status neighborhoods - The NESLA study. Health Place. 2020 Sep;65:102387. doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2020.102387. Epub 2020 Sep 2. PMID: 32889390.

Bälter K, Rydenstam T, Fell T, King AC, Buli BG. Data from an Our Voice citizen science initiative in neighborhoods with low socioeconomic status in Sweden: A proof of concept for collecting complex data. Data Brief. 2020 Oct 9;33:106394. doi: 10.1016/j.dib.2020.106394. PMID: 33117863; PMCID: PMC7581875.

King, A.C.; Odunitan-Wayas, F.A.; Chaudhury, M.; Rubio, M.A.; Baiocchi, M.; Kolbe-Alexander, T.; et. al. on behalf of the Our Voice Global Citizen Science Research Network. Community-Based Approaches to Reducing Health Inequities and Fostering Environmental Justice through Global Youth-Engaged Citizen Science. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, 892.


The Social Contract and Vinnova.

Our Voice Impact

"This experience has changed my life.  I see inadequacies everywhere I go as it relates to pedestrian access and safety.  I even stop [at] construction sites to remind them to be considerate of the handicapped in our community.  Thank you all so much for this awareness and empowerment to require change."

~ Pam Jiner, GirlTrek Advocacy Leader, Denver CO