Our recent article in the American Journal of Health Promotion explores the association between New York City resident’s body mass index (BMI) and their access to neighborhood parks, park quality, and park physical activity resources. Our analyses show that higher residential neighborhood access to large parks (>6 acres) is associated with lower BMI scores.
We measured neighborhood park access for ~13,000 residents of New York City whose height and weight had been measured and who had provided questionnaire data on their socio-demographic characteristics. For each study subject we measured the amount of park space within a 1/2 mile of the home (see figure below), used NYC park inspection data to measure the cleanliness of the parks and measured the number of park based physical activity resources (e.g. ball fields, courts, trails) . While the cleanliness of the parks and the availability of physical activity resources in the parks were not associated with BMI, higher access to parks was associated with lower BMI.
Several new papers from the group have come out in the past several months.
In the Journal of Urban Health we published a paper showing that New Yorker’s engagement in active transport, either walking or cycling, is positively associated with neighborhood walkability. In a follow-up to that work published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, we showed that engagement in active transport is associated with the presence of outdoor neighborhood cafe’s, an indicator of street life, and with greater neighborhood safety.
We published a commentary in Open Epidemiology discussing the problems with using odds ratios as a measure of effect in research on obesity and physical activity. For common outcomes such as obesity, odds ratios overestimate effect sizes and in analyses of interaction the use of odds ratios can cause the appearance of spurious interaction effects.
As part of our work on prostate cancer being conducted in collaboration with researchers at the Henry Ford Health System we have been investigating the effects of neighborhood socioeconomic status (SES) and prostate cancer screening, risk and outcomes. In a paper in Cancer Causes and Control we show that higher neighborhood SES is associated with; 1) younger age at first prostate biopsy, 2) more intensive PSA and DRE screening, and 3) higher risk of prostate cancer diagnosis.
Our most recent paper in Environmental Health Perspectives shows that the extent of tree canopy cover in the neighborhood a child was born in, was associated with a higher risk of testing positive for tree pollen allergic sensitization during later childhood. In addition, contrary to our hypotheses, the extent of tree canopy cover in the child’s neighborhood was not protective against asthma and in fact, the analyses suggest that the extent of tree canopy cover in the neighborhood at birth was associated with a higher risk of developing asthma during childhood.
A video feed from the NIEHS Virtual Obesity Forum has been posted to YouTube. Questions for the discussion panel were sent into NIEHS by email, text and Twitter. The discussion covers a lot of topics related to obesity including, neighborhood built environments, chemical exposures and policy.
Sunday’s NY Post included an article entitled “City Waist Lands” about our work on neighborhood attractiveness and BMI in New York City. The research paper was originally published in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The research shows that across neighborhoods in NYC, the presence of sidewalk cafés, density of landmark buildings, and density of street trees, street features thought to make walking pleasant and safe, were associated with lower BMI. A companion paper on this topic was published the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.
Our analyses of data from 624,204 public school children (kindergarten through 12th grade) who took part in the 2007–2008 New York City Fitnessgram Program show that prevalence of obesity was 20.3%, and the prevalence of overweight was 17.6%. This research was just published inline by the American Journal of Epidemiology.
Key finding from this work are that:
- Boys were more likely to be obese than girls;
- Black and Hispanic children were more likely to be obese that white children;
- US-born children were more likely to be obese than foreign born children;
- Children from low income families (as measured by receipt of free or reduced price school lunch) were more likely to be obese than children from higher income families;
- and, regardless of a child’s own place of birth and school lunch status, the likelihood a child was obese was associated with the percentage of students attending the school who were US-born and the percentage of students at the school who received free or reduced-price lunches.
We suggest that among New York City public school students, the sociodemographic characteristics of the individual child and the sociodemographic composition of the school the child attends, are independently associated with obesity.
Dr. Rundle will be speaking at the NIEHS Virtual Forum: Childhood Obesity and the Environment on Nov 29th at 2pm (http://bit.ly/obesityforum).
Dr. Rundle will be answering questions about childhood obesity and exposures to air pollution and phthalates, you can read more about the research on air pollution and childhood obesity here.
NIEHS’ description of the event:
Could early life chemical exposures explain the dramatic rise in obesity rates?
There are many theories on what is causing the huge increase in obesity in the U.S. and around the world. Certainly diet and lifestyle have something to do with it, but what about prenatal and early life chemical exposures?
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences is pleased to announce a virtual forum on childhood obesity and possible links to environmental exposures. Whether you’re a concerned parent, advocate, community leader, or policy maker, you’ll want to tune in to hear the discussion and ask your questions about the latest research on obesity. Our distinguished panel includes experts from: Johns Hopkins University, Kaiser Permanente, the University of Michigan, Columbia University, and the National Toxicology Program.
The Mailman School of Public Health web site just posted more information about the TEDMED Great Challenges Program and a Q&A about physical activity.
Dr. Rundle is part of the TEDMED Great Challenges Team for the Challenge of Promoting Active Lifestyles. Through the Great Challenges Program TEDMED plans to start a series of conversations on how can we better understand complex, widespread health and medical issues like how to overcome the challenges of promoting physical activity. Physical activity protects against cancer, cardiovascular disease, and Type II diabetes, yet most children and adults do not meet current recommendations for being active.
A critical first step is to garner knowledge and ideas from all of us with a passion for improving our future. Through the TEDMED website, everyone can learn more about 20 of the Great Challenges in Health and Medicine, share ideas and comments, and ask questions from leaders as part of TEDMED’s Great Challenges program. To join in, visit www.tedmed.com/GreatChallenges, follow @TEDMED or #greatchallenges on Twitter, or become a fan on Facebook.
The Great Challenges Program is sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
For our work on neighborhood walkability and physical activity and obesity, we are working on developing very high resolution data on walkability for New York City using our Neighborhood Walkability Index. We previously posted a Census tract level map of neighborhood walkability in New York City. Here we have developed a map of walkability for a 200 meter grid laid over the City.
Each year several Masters in Public Health students do there practicums working on BEH projects. This year we had Christopher “Toph” Allen, Nicolia Eldred-Skemp and Tanya Kaufman working with us. Toph assessed the accuracy of cell-phone based GPS systems for monitoring walking behaviors in various built environments in NYC. Nicolia studied the effects neighborhood built environments experienced during early life on childhood obesity at ages 5 and 7. Tanya worked on developing new measures of neighborhood physical activity resources over the past 20 years using the NETS business listing data. Nicolia’s (to left) poster presentation won an award at the Department of Epidemiology’s Master’s Student day event.
Toph’s poster – full version
Nicolia’s poster – full version
Tanya’s poster – full version