Environmental Changes and Health Outcomes across 25 Years: Four US Cities

While observational research suggests an association between obesity-related social environment factors with obesity and cardiometabolic risk factors, little research has addressed the specific factors and pathways linking the social environment to cardiometabolic risk. The primary reasons for this lack of research are: (1) lack of high quality data on diet, activity, measured height and weight over time linked to cardiometabolic risk biomarkers; (2) lack of fine-grain longitudinal data on the introduction, renovation, and closure of food- and activity-related environmental features; and (3) lack of complex statistical models examining each piece of the time-dependent, complex system, accounting for the process by which food, activity, and transportation facilities are established and expanded and the potential for individuals to selectively migrate to locate near such facilities. The 25-year, longitudinal Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study provides a wide age range; high quality longitudinal, biological, behavioral and anthropometry and biomarker data; geographic diversity; and different patterns and pace of change across the four baseline cities: Birmingham, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Oakland. The research team has developed a unique method to use retrospective and contemporary sources to create data on the timing and placement of introductions, renovations, and closures of: (1) food resources (e.g., restaurants, food shopping); (2) recreation facilities (e.g., trails, parks); and (3) transportation infrastructure (e.g., light rail, bike parking, bike paths) in the four cities over a 25-year period. Furthermore, the team has developed sophisticated statistical models that account for purposeful (as opposed to random) placement of relevant resources in the social environment as well as individuals' ability to selectively migrate to locate near such resources. Study objectives include: (1) Develop and validate new fine-grain measures to capture introductions, renovations, and closures representing changes in: parks, trails, and other recreational sites; food environments; and transportation infrastructure that will be contemporaneously linked to CARDIA respondents' geographic locations over 25 years; and (2) Estimate the effects of introductions, renovations, and closures of key food and activity facilities and transportation infrastructure on diet and activity behaviors, body weight, and cardiometabolic risk in the four field cities over 25 years, while accounting for the endogenous placement of food and activity facilities and selective migration. The team is specifically focusing on comparisons across individual-level race, income, and education groups to examine how environmental factors contribute to race and SES inequalities in diet, obesity, and cardiometabolic risk from young- to mid-adulthood. This research will improve current understanding of the mechanisms through which social environments (specifically broader societal, economic, and environmental contexts) influence health outcomes.

Principal Investigator: Penny Gordon-Larsen

CPC Fellow Investigators: David K. Guilkey , Barry M. Popkin

Funding Source: NIH NHLBI

Grant Number: R01HL114091

Funding Period: 9/1/2011 - 6/30/2017

Primary Research Area: Population Health

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