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Health Place. 2014 May;27:22-9. doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2014.01.004. Epub 2014 Jan 24.

Adolescent self-defined neighborhoods and activity spaces: spatial overlap and relations to physical activity and obesity.

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Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, 426 Thompson Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48108, USA. Electronic address:
Case Western Reserve University, Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, 10900 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44122, USA. Electronic address:
University of South Carolina, Arnold School of Public Health, 921 Assembly Street, Columbia, SC 29208, USA. Electronic address:
Washington University, Department of Anthropology, One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO 63130, USA. Electronic address:
Division of Developmental/Behavioral Pediatrics and Psychology, Rainbow Babies & Children׳s Hospital, University Hospitals Case Medical Center, W.O. Walker Center, Suite 3150, 10524 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44106, USA. Electronic address:
Center for Research on Health Care, Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh. 230 Mckee Place Suite 600 Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA. Electronic address:


Defining the proper geographic scale for built environment exposures continues to present challenges. In this study, size attributes and exposure calculations from two commonly used neighborhood boundaries were compared to those from neighborhoods that were self-defined by a sample of 145 urban minority adolescents living in subsidized housing estates. Associations between five built environment exposures and physical activity, overweight and obesity were also examined across the three neighborhood definitions. Limited spatial overlap was observed across the various neighborhood definitions. Further, many places where adolescents were active were not within the participants׳ neighborhoods. No statistically significant associations were found between counts of facilities and the outcomes based on exposure calculations using the self-defined boundaries; however, a few associations were evident for exposures using the 0.75mile network buffer and census tract boundaries. Future investigation of the relationship between the built environment, physical activity and obesity will require practical and theoretically-based methods for capturing salient environmental exposures.


Built environment; Geographic information system; Neighborhood; Obesity; Physical activity

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