236693 Shared geographic spaces: Investigating the individual food environments of urban neighbors in Philadelphia

Monday, October 31, 2011

Jana Ariel Hirsch , Department of Epidemiology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Amy Hillier, PhD , Department of City & Regional Planning, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Introduction: Research to identify and isolate proximate causes of recent increases of obesity largely focus on the correlation between built food environments and obesity rates, yet valid measures of what constitutes a food environment and how this environment influences individual health behavior still remain crude. Methods: To explore this question, 50 neighbors who share a traditionally defined food environment were surveyed to investigate individual food environments. The survey instrument included a mix of close-ended and open-ended questions about socioeconomic data, shopping patterns, transportation, purchasing, and consumption. Food shopping patterns were mapped using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to illustrate the individual time and space food-shopping environment. Results: Participants who lived more than half a mile from a supermarket (approximately 805 meters), traveled farther than those with a major supermarket within 0.5 miles of their home, for both big and small food shopping trips. They were also more likely to drive or use public transportation rather than walk or bike to the store. We found no significant difference in purchasing or consumption patterns between the two groups. Discussion: These findings call into question existing theory in the field on the possible mechanisms behind current built food environment and health research. Data suggest that alternative methods of food environment exposure be considered for future research studies.

Learning Areas:
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe ways in which individuals interact with and shape their food environments. Identify issues in current methodology for examining the built food environment.

Keywords: Urban Health, Food and Nutrition

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I designed the study, collected the data and analyzed it
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.