More neighborhood retail associated with lower obesity among New York City public high school students

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Abstract

Policies target fast food outlets to curb adolescent obesity. We argue that researchers should examine the entire retail ecology of neighborhoods, not just fast food outlets. We examine the association between the neighborhood retail environment and obesity using Fitnessgram data collected from 94,348 New York City public high school students. In generalized hierarchical linear models, the number of fast food restaurants predicted lower odds of obesity for adolescents (OR:0.972 per establishment; CI:0.957–0.988). In a “placebo test” we found that banks – a measure of neighborhood retail ecology – also predicted lower obesity (OR:0.979 per bank; CI:0.962–0.994). Retail disinvestment might be associated with greater obesity; accordingly, public health research should study the influence of general retail disinvestment not just food-specific investment.

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