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J Adolesc Health. 2007 Apr;40(4):325-33. Epub 2007 Feb 5.

Food and park environments: neighborhood-level risks for childhood obesity in east Los Angeles.

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1
Community, Health Outcomes, and Intervention Research Program, The Saban Research Institute, Childrens Hospital Los Angeles and Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90027, USA. mkipke@chla.usc.edu

Abstract

PURPOSE:

The rapid increase in obesity over the past two decades suggests that behavioral and environmental influences, including poor nutrition and physical inactivity, are fueling what is now widely recognized as a public health crisis. Yet, limited research has been conducted to examine how environmental factors, such as neighborhood-level characteristics, may be associated with increased risk for obesity.

METHODS:

Community-level risk associated with childhood obesity was examined in East Los Angeles, a community with one of the highest rates of childhood obesity in Los Angeles by triangulating: 1) spatial data for the number and location of food establishments relative to the location of schools; 2) observations regarding the availability and quality of fruits and vegetables in local grocery stores; and 3) observations regarding the quality and utilization of local parks.

RESULTS:

The findings revealed that there were 190 food outlets in the study community, of which 93 (49%) were fast-food restaurants. Of the fast-food restaurants, 63% were within walking distance of a school. In contrast, there were 62 grocery stores, of which only 18% sold fresh fruits and/or vegetables of good quality. Of the stores that did sell fruits and/or vegetables, only four were within walking distance of a school. Although well maintained, the five parks in this community accounted for only 37.28 acres, or 0.543 acres per 1000 residents.

CONCLUSIONS:

These findings suggest that children have easy access to fast food, and limited access to both healthy food options and parks in which to engage in physical fitness activities. This was particularly true in areas around schools. The implications for these findings with regards to policy-related prevention and future research are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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