The Association between Obesity and Urban Food Environments
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Several studies have examined associations between the food retail environment and obesity, though virtually no work has been done in the urban South, where obesity rates are among the highest in the country. This study assessed associations between access to food retail outlets and obesity in New Orleans. Data on individual characteristics and body weight were collected by telephone interviews from a random sample of adults (N = 3,925) living in New Orleans in 2004–2005. The neighborhood of each individual was geo-mapped by creating a 2-km buffer around the center point of the census tract in which they lived. Food retailer counts were created by summing the total number of each food store type and fast food establishment within this 2-km neighborhood. Hierarchical linear models assessed associations between access to food retailers and obesity status. After adjusting for individual characteristics, each additional supermarket in a respondent’s neighborhood was associated with a reduced odds for obesity (OR 0.93, 95% CI 0.88–0.99). Fast food restaurant (OR 1.01, 95% CI 1.00–1.02) and convenience store (OR 1.01, 95% CI 1.00–1.02) access were each predictive of greater obesity odds. An individual’s access to food stores and fast food restaurants may play a part in determining weight status. Future studies with longitudinal and experimental designs are needed to test whether modifications in the food environment may assist in the prevention of obesity.
KeywordsObesity Food environment Food stores Fast food Urban
Support for this research comes from a grant (#2006-55215-16711) from the National Research Initiative of the US Department of Agriculture’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture; from a grant (#R21CA121167) from the National Cancer Institute under the program entitled Economics of Diet, Activity, and Energy Balance; from a Maternal and Child Health/Epidemiology Doctoral Training grant from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the US Health Resources and Services Administration; and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (#1U48DP001948-01).
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