247453 Neighborhood Safety and Children's Physical Activity, Inactivity, and BMI

Wednesday, November 2, 2011: 1:27 PM

Ashlesha Datar , Health, RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA
Nancy Nicosia, PhD , Health Program, RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA
Victoria Shier , Public Policy, Pardee-RAND Graduate School, Santa Monica, CA
Social-cognitive and ecological models of health behavior emphasize the role of health-promoting environments in facilitating health behaviors in communities. Neighborhood safety is an environmental factor often cited as a potential barrier to physical activity among adults and children. However, the existing literature largely focuses on adults and relies on cross-sectional designs that are subject to bias. The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between parents perceived neighborhood safety and children's (who are more likely to be sensitive to neighborhood safety) physical activity, inactivity, and BMI. Individual-level data come from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study - Kindergarten Class (ECLS-K), a multi-stage longitudinal survey of a nationally representative cohort of kindergarteners starting school in the 1998-1999 school year in the U.S. Students were followed from kindergarten through 8th grade. In each wave, height and weight were measured and parent-reported data on physical activity, TV watching, and safety of neighborhood for children's outdoor play was collected. We estimate cross-sectional regressions and panel data models with child fixed-effects to examine whether parental perceptions of neighborhood safety influence children's physical activity, sedentary behavior, and body mass index (BMI). This approach advances our understanding of the causal relationship between perceived neighborhood safety and children's level of activity. In the cross-sectional models, parent perceptions of the neighborhood being not at all safe or somewhat safe for children to play outside during the day are associated with significantly greater hours/week of television watching and fewer days/week of exercise. However, these do not translate into a significant association between perceived safety and BMI percentile or obesity. These results hold when implementing a panel data model. Decrease in parental perception of neighborhood safety over time is associated with fewer days of exercise per week and more hours of television watching for the same child.

Learning Areas:
Environmental health sciences
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Analyze the effect of parental perceptions of neighborhood safety on young children's physical activity, sedentary behavior, and BMI.

Keywords: Safety, Obesity

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have conducted several analyses related to children and BMI/obesity.
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.