What constitutes an obesogenic environment in rural communities?

Am J Health Promot. 2006 Jul-Aug;20(6):411-21. doi: 10.4278/0890-1171-20.6.411.


Purpose: To identify perceived indicators of the physical environment associated with obesity in rural communities.

Design: Cross-sectional telephone survey.

Setting: Thirteen communities in rural Missouri, Tennessee, and Arkansas, 2003.

Subjects: A total of 2510 adults completed the survey and 2210 respondents were included in the analysis (74% female, 93% white, and 27% obese).

Measures: The 106-item survey measured perceptions of the neighborhood environment (recreational facilities, land use, transportation/safety, aesthetics, and food environment) and health-related behaviors. The primary outcome was obese (body mass index [BMI] > or = 30 kg/mn2) vs. normal weight (BMI = 18.5-24.9 kg/m2).

Analysis: Logistic regression was used to control for age, gender and education.

Results: Several indicators of the perceived neighborhood environment were associated with being obese (adjusted odds ratio [95% confidence interval]), including furthest distance to the nearest recreational facility (1.8 [1.3-2.4]), unpleasant community for physical activity (1.8 [1.3-2.6]), feeling unsafe from crime (2.1 [1.5-2.9]) or traffic (1.7 [1.2-2.3]), and few nonresidential destinations (1.4 [1.0-1.9]). Distance to recreational facilities and crime safety remained significant in the multivariate model, along with dietary-fat intake, sedentary behavior, and moderate/vigorous physical activity.

Conclusion: This study adds to a growing evidence base of environmental correlates of obesity and makes a unique contribution regarding rural communities. If causality is established, environmental interventions that target obesogenic neighborhood features may reduce the prevalence of obesity on a population level.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Crime
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Recreation
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Risk Factors
  • Rural Population*
  • Sex Factors