The Influence of Rural Home and Neighborhood Environments on Healthy Eating, Physical Activity, and Weight
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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.
KeywordsRural Obesity Physical activity Neighborhood environment Home environment Social ecological
Funding for this research was provided through cooperative agreement no. U48 DP 000043 and no. 5U48DP001909 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the Emory Prevention Research Center (EPRC). The findings and conclusions in this journal article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The authors acknowledge the contributions of the EPRC’s Community Advisory Board to the design and conduct of this research and the Southwest Georgia Cancer Coalition for coordinating recruitment and data collection. We also wish to thank our interviewers and study participants for their valuable contributions to this research.
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