Neighborhood safety and green space as predictors of obesity among preschool children from low-income families in New York City

Prev Med. 2013 Sep;57(3):189-93. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2013.05.012. Epub 2013 May 31.


Background: Neighborhood safety, green space, walkability, and sociodemographics may influence physical activity and childhood obesity.

Methods: Data on measured height and weight, demographic characteristics, and home ZIP code were collected from year 2004 enrollees in a means-tested preschool program in New York City. Each ZIP code was surrounded by a 400-m buffer and characterized using data from the US census, local government departments, New York Times website, and Transportation Alternatives. Linear and Poisson models were constructed using cluster robust standard errors and adjusting for child's sex, race, ethnicity, age, and neighborhood characteristics.

Results: Analyses included 11,562 children ages 3-5 years living in 160 residential ZIP codes. A higher homicide rate (at the 75th vs 25th percentile) was associated with a 22% higher prevalence of obesity (95% CI for the prevalence ratio (PR): 1.05 to 1.41). A higher density of street trees (at the 75th vs 25th percentile) was associated with 12% lower prevalence of obesity (95% CI for the PR: 0.79 to 0.99). Other neighborhood characteristics did not have significant associations with childhood obesity.

Conclusions: Among preschool children from low-income families, neighborhood homicide rate was associated with more obesity and street tree density was associated with less obesity.

Keywords: Adiposity; BMI; Child; Environment; GIS; GPS; Geographic Information Systems; Global Positioning Systems; NYC; New York City; Obesity; PLUTO; Poverty; Preschool; Primary Land Use Tax Lot Output; Residence Characteristics; Safety; Urban Population; body mass index (weight (kg)/height(m)(2)).

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Environment Design*
  • Female
  • Homicide / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • New York City
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Poverty*
  • Prevalence
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Risk Factors
  • Safety*