2011-2012 Grad


Neighborhood characteristics and weight status in preschool children

Introduction: Childhood obesity is increasing at an alarming rate particularly among minority and low-income populations. More than 12 million children and adolescents are obese (Ogden, Carroll, Curtin, Lamb, & Flegal, 2010). Research on the neighborhood and built environment is relatively new. Few studies have examined the relationship of neighborhood characteristics and weight status, and studies in the preschool population are limited.

Study Purpose: The study had three aims: 1) to examine the relationship between neighborhood characteristics (number of grocery stores and fast food restaurants, and number and quality of parks) and weight status (overweight and obese) in low income, preschool children; 2) to examine the relationship between neighborhood socioeconomic status (education) and children's weight status (overweight and obese); and 3) to examine the differences in weight status (overweight and obese) for pre-school children by gender.

Methods: This study was a non-experimental, correlation design utilizing a secondary dataset from a low-income preschool program (Head Start), and data collected on neighborhood characteristics. The sample set consisted of children ages 3-4 (N=622) who attended a Head Start program in an urban setting. Statistical analyses included descriptive analyses, correlations, logistic regression and Chi Square.

Results: In the study sample (N=622), 63.8% of children were normal weight, 16.7% of were overweight and 15.1% were obese. None of the bivariate correlations between neighborhood characteristics and obesity were significant. Logistic regression analysis revealed that neighborhood characteristics were not significant predictors of obesity. Chi square analysis determined that gender was significantly associated with obesity.

Conclusions: Studies examining neighborhood characteristics and weight status are relatively new and challenging, especially studies of the preschool population. The findings in this study were not all significant; however still indicate the need for continued research in neighborhood characteristics and obesity in preschool children to better understand the relationship between obesity and the neighborhood. Gender was significantly associated with obesity and should be examined more closely to determine the role gender plays in influencing obesity in this population.

The full abstract can be found here.