Conceptualizing and comparing neighborhood and activity space measures for food environment research

Health Place. 2014 Nov;30:215-25. doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2014.09.007. Epub 2014 Oct 10.


Greater accessibility to geospatial technologies has led to a surge of spatialized public health research, much of which has focused on food environments. The purpose of this study was to analyze differing spatial measures of exposure to supermarkets and farmers׳ markets among women of reproductive age in eastern North Carolina. Exposure measures were derived using participant-defined neighborhoods, investigator-defined road network neighborhoods, and activity spaces incorporating participants׳ time space behaviors. Results showed that mean area for participant-defined neighborhoods (0.04 sq. miles) was much smaller than 2.0 mile road network neighborhoods (3.11 sq. miles) and activity spaces (26.36 sq. miles), and that activity spaces provided the greatest market exposure. The traditional residential neighborhood concept may not be particularly relevant for all places. Time-space approaches capturing activity space may be more relevant, particularly if integrated with mixed methods strategies.

Keywords: Activity space; Food environment; GIS; Neighborhood.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Environment Design*
  • Female
  • Food Supply*
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Leisure Activities*
  • Male
  • North Carolina
  • Obesity*
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Young Adult