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Measuring the neighborhood environment: associations with young girls’ energy intake and expenditure in a cross-sectional study

ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Neighborhood environments affect children’s health outcomes. Observational methods used to assess neighborhoods can be categorized as indirect, intermediate, or direct. Direct methods, involving in-person audits of the neighborhoods conducted by trained observers, are recognized as an accurate representation of current neighborhood conditions. The authors investigated the associations of various neighborhood characteristics with young girls’ diet and physical activity. METHODS: This study is based on a subset of participants in the Cohort Study of Young Girls’ Nutrition, Environment and Transitions (CYGNET). In-person street audits were conducted within 215 girls’ residential neighborhoods using a modified St. Louis Audit Tool. From the street audit data, exploratory factor analysis revealed five neighborhood scales: ‘mixed residential and commercial,’ ‘food and retail,’ ‘recreation,’ ‘walkability,’ and ‘physical disorder.’ A Neighborhood Deprivation Index was also derived from census data. The authors investigated if the five neighborhood scales and the Neighborhood Deprivation Index were associated with quartiles of total energy intake and expenditure (metabolic equivalent (MET) hours/week) at baseline, and whether any of these associations were modified by race/ethnicity. RESULTS: After adjustment for demographic characteristics, there was an inverse association between prevalence of ‘food and retail’ destinations and total energy intake (for a one quartile increase, OR = 0.84, 95% CI 0.74, 0.96). Positive associations were also observed between the ‘recreation’ and ‘walkability’ scales with physical activity among Hispanic/Latina girls (for a one quartile increase in MET, OR = 1.94, 95% CI 1.31, 2.88 for recreation; OR = 1.71, 95% CI 1.11, 2.63 for walkability). Among African-American girls, there was an inverse association between ‘physical disorder’ and physical activity (OR = 0.31, 95% CI 0.12, 0.80). CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that neighborhood food and retail availability may be inversely associated with young girls’ energy intakes in contrast to other studies’ findings that focused on adults. There is considerable variation in neighborhoods’ influences on young girls’ physical activity behaviors, particularly for young girls of different racial/ethnic backgrounds.

Authors: Leung CW; Gregorich SE; Laraia BA; Kushi LH; Yen IH

Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2010 Jun 1;7:52.

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