A growing body of research suggests that the neighborhood environment plays a crucial role in the obesity epidemic, and may contribute to other serious health problems. Policy makers at local, state and national levels are currently considering policies that modify specific environmental factors to promote health. However, these policies rest on causal assumptions that have not been well-tested in the existing literature. The proposed research will fill gaps in this literature using longitudinal data from the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey (LA FANS) as well as neighborhood data from a variety of other sources. LA FANS is a multi-level survey of families that sampled over 5,000 individuals in 65 neighborhoods in 2000-2002 and conducted follow-up interviews six years later. LA FANS collected self-report data on physical health and the social environment, as well as anthropometry and biomarkers, added in the second wave. A broad range of other neighborhood characteristics will be measured using a range of data sources -- including observers'ratings of neighborhood characteristics, the US census, commercial business databases, and governmental administrative data. The resulting data set will allow the research team to examine five classes of environmental factors: neighborhood food environment, availability of physical activity resources, physical disorder, the neighborhood social environment, and neighborhood socioeconomic status. The proposed analyses will address three specific aims: (1) To determine if exposure to environmental factors precedes changes in weight as predicted by existing theory;(2) To assess the associations of environmental factors with health indicators other than obesity, such as central adiposity, blood pressure, serum cholesterol and hemoglobin A1c;and (3) To describe the associations among a wide range of neighborhood characteristics in a way that allows a more careful interpretation of the existing literature and guides future research to identify the unique effects of each characteristic. The findings from the proposed research will provide critical information, both for policy makers who are currently grappling with important policy decisions, as well as scientists who are trying to evaluate existing theory.

Public Health Relevance

Rates of obesity vary greatly across neighborhoods. The goal of this project is to examine the association of a wide range of neighborhood characteristics with changes in obesity over time. The project will also estimate the effects of these characteristics on other health problems, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-HDM-G (03))
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Reis, Jared P
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University of California Los Angeles
Public Health & Prev Medicine
Schools of Public Health
Los Angeles
United States
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Babey, Susan H; Wu, Shinyi; Cohen, Deborah (2014) How can schools help youth increase physical activity? An economic analysis comparing school-based programs. Prev Med 69 Suppl 1:S55-60
Casas-Cordero, C; Kreuter, F; Wang, Y et al. (2013) Assessing the measurement error properties of interviewer observations of neighbourhood characteristics. J R Stat Soc Ser A Stat Soc 176:227-249
Cohen, D A; Babey, S H (2012) Contextual influences on eating behaviours: heuristic processing and dietary choices. Obes Rev 13:766-79