The prevalence of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents has been increasing dramatically with low-income and some racial/ethnic minority populations being at highest risk. Rising obesity rates and socioeconomic disparities in obesity stem from social and environmental factors that need to be understood and modified for effective prevention. In this project, we propose to follow a cohort of 20,000 children through elementary school, a period when demographic disparities in obesity manifest themselves, to study their physical development, health behaviors, and the relationship of these outcomes and behaviors to the food and physical activity environments in their residential and school neighborhoods.
Our specific aims are as follows: 1. Describe how the food and physical activity environments around residences and schools differ for children from different socioeconomic and racial/ethnic groups. 2. Describe how the food and physical activity environments inside elementary schools differ for children from different socioeconomic and racial/ethnic groups. 3. Analyze the relationship between food and physical activity environments and health behaviors, by socioeconomic and racial/ethnic groups. 4. Analyze the contribution of food and physical activity environments in the development of disparities in body mass index (BMI) in children from kindergarten through 5th (and for some analyses 8th) grade.

Public Health Relevance

School and residential environments are likely to shape children's health behaviors, but their contributions to excess weight gain are unknown. This project tries to identify environmental factors of excess weight gain during elementary school years, which includes the age where sociodemographic disparities in overweight begin to manifest themselves. This is a necessary task before considering whether proposed interventions and policy changes are promising or likely to lead down a blind alley.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Project (R01)
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Study Section
Community Influences on Health Behavior (CIHB)
Program Officer
Esposito, Layla E
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Rand Corporation
Santa Monica
United States
Zip Code
Datar, Ashlesha; Nicosia, Nancy; Shier, Victoria (2014) Maternal work and children's diet, activity, and obesity. Soc Sci Med 107:196-204
Sturm, Roland; An, Ruopeng (2014) Obesity and economic environments. CA Cancer J Clin 64:337-50
Hattori, Aiko; An, Ruopeng; Sturm, Roland (2013) Neighborhood food outlets, diet, and obesity among California adults, 2007 and 2009. Prev Chronic Dis 10:E35
Sturm, R; Hattori, A (2013) Morbid obesity rates continue to rise rapidly in the United States. Int J Obes (Lond) 37:889-91
Fernandes, Meenakshi M (2013) A national evaluation of the impact of state policies on competitive foods in schools. J Sch Health 83:249-55
An, Ruopeng; Sturm, Roland (2012) School and residential neighborhood food environment and diet among California youth. Am J Prev Med 42:129-35
Datar, Ashlesha; Nicosia, Nancy (2012) Junk Food in Schools and Childhood Obesity. J Policy Anal Manage 31:312-337
Shier, V; An, R; Sturm, R (2012) Is there a robust relationship between neighbourhood food environment and childhood obesity in the USA? Public Health 126:723-30
Fernandes, Meenakshi Maria; Sturm, Roland (2011) The role of school physical activity programs in child body mass trajectory. J Phys Act Health 8:174-81
Sturm, R; Datar, A (2011) Regional price differences and food consumption frequency among elementary school children. Public Health 125:136-41

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