Proximity of convenience stores and parks impact children’s weight status

Children living within a one-fourth mile of convenience stores have almost twice the odds of being overweight or obese while those living within a one-half mile of a park have less than half the odds of being overweight of obese according to new research presented Oct. 30 at the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) annual conference.

Punam Ohri-Vachaspati, a professor at Arizona State University and lead author of the study, said that isolating independent relationships between the neighborhood environment and child weight status is necessary for the optimal allocation of community-based obesity prevention resources.

Data was collected from households with children ages 3-18 using a random-digit-dial survey in four low-income cities with predominantly minority populations in New Jersey. Respondents weighed and measured themselves and all children in the household using CDC guidelines. Objectively classified food and physical activity outlets surrounding a household were geocoded to develop measures of varied degrees of proximity.

The study found almost all (96 percent) of children lived within one-half mile of unhealthy food outlets such as convenience stores and limited service restaurants; 38.5 percent lived within one-half mile of a supermarket; and 88.8 percent lived within one-half mile of a park. A child’s odds of being overweight or obese were significantly higher if they lived within one-fourth mile of a convenience store and significantly lower if they lived within one-half mile of a park.

Our findings offer a basis for improving the effectiveness of such targeted interventions by singling out convenience stores and parks as likely influential contributors to childhood obesity in urban communities said Ohri-Vachaspati.

View slides from Ohri-Vachaspati’s presentation here.

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