Disparities in access to food and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)-related outcomes: a cross-sectional analysis

BMC Pulm Med. 2021 Apr 27;21(1):139. doi: 10.1186/s12890-021-01485-8.


Background: Millions of Americans are living in food deserts in the United States, however the role of the local food environment on COPD has not been studied. The aim of this study is to determine the association between food deserts and COPD-related outcomes.

Method: In this cross-sectional analysis we linked data collected from SPIROMICS (SubPopulations and InteRmediate Outcome Measures in COPD Study) between 2010 and 2015 and food desert data, defined as an underserved area that lacks access to affordable healthy foods, from the Food Access Research Atlas. COPD outcomes include percentage of predicted forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1%), St. George's Respiratory Questionnaire (SGRQ), COPD Assessment Test (CAT), 6-min walk distance test (6MWD), exacerbations, and air trapping. We used generalized linear mixed models to evaluate the association between living in food deserts and respiratory outcomes, adjusting for age, gender, race, education, income, marital status, BMI, smoking status, pack years, and urban status RESULTS: Among 2713 participants, 22% lived in food deserts. Participants living in food deserts were less likely to be white and more likely to have a lower income than those who did not live in food deserts. In the adjusted model controlling for demographics and individual income, living in food deserts was associated lower FEV1% (β = - 2.51, P = 0.046), higher air trapping (β = 2.47, P = 0.008), worse SGRQ (β = 3.48, P = 0.001) and CAT (β = 1.20, P = 0.003) scores, and 56% greater odds of severe exacerbations (P = 0.004). Results were consistent when looking at food access alone, regardless of whether participants lived in low income areas.

Conclusions: Findings suggest an independent association between food desert and food access alone with COPD outcomes. Health program planning may benefit from addressing disparities in access to food.

Keywords: Access; COPD; Disparities; Food; Food desert; Respiratory.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Food*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive*