The Influence of Rural Home and Neighborhood Environments on Healthy Eating, Physical Activity, and Weight
Despite the recognition that environments play a role in shaping physical activity and healthy eating behaviors, relatively little research has focused on rural homes and neighborhoods as important settings for obesity prevention. This study, conducted through community-based participatory research, used a social ecological model to examine how home and neighborhood food and physical activity environments were associated with weight status among rural-dwelling adults. Data were from a cross-sectional survey of White and African American adults (n = 513) aged 40–70 years living in rural southwest Georgia. Data were analyzed using measured variable path analysis, a form of structural equation modeling. The results support a social ecological approach to obesity prevention. Physical activity had a direct effect on BMI; self-efficacy, family support for physical activity, and household inventory of physical activity equipment also had direct effects on physical activity. Neighborhood walkability had an indirect effect on physical activity through self-efficacy and family social support. Although neither fruit and vegetable intake nor fat intake had direct effects on BMI, self-efficacy and household food inventories had direct effects on dietary behavior. Perceived access to healthy foods in the neighborhood had an indirect effect on healthy eating and a direct effect on weight; neighborhood cohesion had an indirect effect on healthy eating through self-efficacy. Overall, individual factors and home environments tended to exhibit direct effects on behavior, and neighborhood variables more often exhibited an indirect effect.