Online Program

Is the local food environment related to obesity and dietary behavior? It may depend on how you characterize the food environment

Monday, November 4, 2013 : 9:30 a.m. - 9:50 a.m.

Susan Babey, PhD, UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA
Joelle Wolstein, MPP, Center for Health Policy Research, Fielding School of Public Health, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA
Harold Goldstein, DrPH, Davis Office, California Center for Public Health Advocacy, Davis, CA
Sam Krumholz, UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, Luskin School of Public Affairs, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA
Allison Diamant, MD, MSHS, Division of General Internal Medicine and Health Services Research, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Background: A growing body of research has examined the association of food environments with health outcomes such as obesity or dietary behavior. However, this research has produced inconsistent results with a number of studies finding that food environments are associated with obesity and dietary behavior and others reporting no association. We examined whether different ways of characterizing the food environment impacts these associations. Methods: Using data from the 2007 California Health Interview Survey, we examined the association of the food environment around respondents' households with adult obesity and dietary behaviors. Food environments were characterized in two ways: (1) counts of particular types of food stores including fast-food restaurants, convenience stores, dollar stores, liquor stores, grocery stores, produce vendors, and warehouse stores; and (2) the Retail Food Environment Index (RFEI), a proportional measure that attempts to characterize the overall food environment. The RFEI is defined as the number of businesses offering primarily unhealthy food options divided by the number offering healthier food options. Results: Regression models adjusting for age, gender, race/ethnicity, income, and individual food outlet types revealed few significant associations between any individual store type and the outcomes. Conversely, the RFEI was positively associated with obesity as well as consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and fast food, but inversely associated with fruit and vegetable consumption. Conclusions: These findings suggest that how the food environment is characterized in research can impact conclusions drawn about the association of food environments with health outcomes.

Learning Areas:

Chronic disease management and prevention
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe different ways to characterize the local food environment Identify factors associated with obesity and dietary behaviors Discuss the implications of using different methods for characterizing the food environment

Keyword(s): Food and Nutrition, Obesity

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a senior research scientist at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. For the past twelve years I have directed research examining the social and environmental factors related to overweight and obesity, chronic health conditions, and health-related behaviors such as physical activity, and dietary behavior. I have served as PI or investigator on many research projects and am currently studying the impact of food environments on health outcomes.
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.