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Am J Public Health. 2009 Feb;99(2):271-8. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2007.128702. Epub 2008 Dec 4.

Influences of physical and social neighborhood environments on children's physical activity and obesity.

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  • 1University of Texas School of Public Health, Houston, TX 77030, USA.



We investigated the association between physical and social neighborhood environments and fifth-grade students' physical activity and obesity.


We collected data on 650 children and their primary caregivers during phase 1 of Healthy Passages, a multisite, community-based, cross-sectional study of health risk behaviors and health outcomes in children. We conducted independent systematic neighborhood observations to measure neighborhood physical characteristics, and we analyzed survey data on social processes. We modeled children's physical activity and obesity status with structural equation models that included latent variables for the physical and social environments.


After we controlled for children's sociodemographic factors, we found that a favorable social environment was positively associated with several measures of physical activity and that physical activity was negatively associated with obesity in these children. Physical environment was not significantly associated with physical activity.


Our findings suggest that neighborhood social factors as well as the physical environment should be considered in the development of health policy and interventions to reduce childhood obesity.

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