The connection between neighborhood food environments and obesity occupies a central role in policy debates. With few natural experiments to evaluate, the connection has been primarily estimated from correlations in cross-sectional data. This project will evaluate a natural experiment, namely a zoning policy that received international attention and became known as the """"""""Los Angeles Fast Food Ban"""""""". Despite its """"""""fast food ban"""""""" nickname, the policy is a zoning regulation that from 2008 on restricted opening or remodeling a fast food restaurant in South Los Angeles. The proponents of the policy argued that this policy would attract grocery stores and supermarkets to enhance healthy food environments in that area. The area subject to the rule has about 700,000 residents, which by itself would make it one of the 20 largest cities in the US. The LA Fast Food Ban provides a natural experiment for research to evaluate the impact of policy interventions through the food environment. Similar zoning regulations are regularly advocated as approaches to combat obesity or at least improve diets (i.e., a report by the Institute of Medicine). Yet there are no evaluations of the impact of the Los Angeles regulation on food outlets, diets, or obesity rates in the intervention or control areas. This proposed project will aso allow us to reconsider reported associations of local food environments with diets and obesity in a stronger study design.
Our specific aims are: - To study changes in the composition of different types of food outlets, including fast food restaurants, full service restaurants, convenience stores, grocery stores, and supermarkets in areas subject to the regulation and unaffected areas in Los Angeles, using license data from the LA County Public Health Dept. - To study whether the ordinance led to changes in dietary intake, including consumptions of fast foods, fried potatoes, sugar-sweetened beverages, vegetables, and fruits or in body mass index/ obesity using repeated cross-sectional surveys before and after the ordinance collected by the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS). - If we find effects of the regulation on diet and obesity, we will also decompose to which extent these effects are due to changes in the food environment (the primary goal of the regulation) or a consequence of other changes in the intervention area (e.g., media attention to local diets).

Public Health Relevance

This project will evaluate the most publicized zoning regulation aimed to improve the diet and reduce obesity rates among residents (the 2008 Los Angeles Fast Food Ban), which restricted fast food outlets in some neighborhoods. We look at changes in food environments and diet/obesity among residents in neighborhoods affected by the regulation and comparison neighborhoods. Findings will provide more reliable evidence for developing responsive public health policies and interventions to improve health behaviors

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Small Research Grants (R03)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Community Influences on Health Behavior (CIHB)
Program Officer
Mckinnon, Robin A
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Rand Corporation
Santa Monica
United States
Zip Code
Mejia, Nelly; Lightstone, Amy S; Basurto-Davila, Ricardo et al. (2015) Neighborhood Food Environment, Diet, and Obesity Among Los Angeles County Adults, 2011. Prev Chronic Dis 12:E143
Sturm, Roland; Hattori, Aiko (2015) Diet and obesity in Los Angeles County 2007-2012: Is there a measurable effect of the 2008 ""Fast-Food Ban""? Soc Sci Med 133:205-11
Sturm, Roland; An, Ruopeng (2014) Obesity and economic environments. CA Cancer J Clin 64:337-50
An, Ruopeng (2013) Effectiveness of subsidies in promoting healthy food purchases and consumption: a review of field experiments. Public Health Nutr 16:1215-28