Does availability of physical activity and food outlets differ by race and income? Findings from an enumeration study in a health disparate region
Background Low-income, ethnic/racial minorities and rural populations are at increased risk for obesity and related chronic health conditions when compared to white, urban and higher-socio-economic status (SES) peers. Recent systematic reviews highlight the influence of the built environment on obesity, yet very few of these studies consider rural areas or populations. Utilizing a CBPR process, this study advances community-driven causal models to address obesity by exploring the difference in resources for physical activity and food outlets by block group race and income in a small regional city that anchors a rural health disparate region. To guide this inquiry we hypothesized that lower income and racially diverse block groups would have fewer food outlets, including fewer grocery stores and fewer physical activity outlets. We further hypothesized that walkability, as defined by a computed walkability index, would be lower in the lower income block groups. Methods Using census data and GIS, base maps of the region were created and block groups categorized by income and race. All food outlets and physical activity resources were enumerated and geocoded and a walkability index computed. Analyses included one-way MANOVA and spatial autocorrelation. Results In total, 49 stores, 160 restaurants and 79 physical activity outlets were enumerated. There were no differences in the number of outlets by block group income or race. Further, spatial analyses suggest that the distribution of outlets is dispersed across all block groups. Conclusions Under the larger CPBR process, this enumeration study advances the causal models set forth by the community members to address obesity by providing an overview of the food and physical activity environment in this region. This data reflects the food and physical activity resources available to residents in the region and will aid many of the community-academic partners as they pursue intervention strategies targeting obesity.