Decisions to take part in physical activity influenced by multiple environmental factors
Many factors influence whether people use physical activity resources. In this chapter we discuss the more common factors examined in the research literature, including those we think are the strongest predictors of physical activity resource use: accessibility, proximity, safety, and the presence and quality of features and amenities, aesthetics, and incivilities.
Excessive TV viewing and TV ads contribute to serious health problems among youth
Most Americans watch several hours of television each night and are bombarded by commercials (Holmes, 2008). But Americans are not alone in their television habits, despite the health detriments associated with excessive viewing.
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Obesity has become a global crisis. Although most would agree that eating better and being more physically active are the answer to the problem, researchers have recently become aware that the problem goes beyond just changing individual behaviors. We can convince people of the benefits of healthful eating and regular physical activity, but what happens when they go home to a neighborhood where fresh vegetables are not available and opportunities for physical activity are hard to find? If the environment doesn’t help support healthy lifestyles, the change will be next to impossible to sustain. In Reversing the Obesogenic Environment, leading researchers Lee, McAlexander, and Banda introduce the concept of the obesogenic environment—an environment that leads people to become obese—and explore ways that changing our environment can encourage healthier choices.
Although most of the current literature focuses on the food supply and dietary habits, Reversing the Obesogenic Environment takes a broader view of the current obesity problem. It looks at all of the elements that combine to create the obesogenic environment:
The ways that the built environment, access to resources, and active transportation systems can either foster or discourage regular physical activity
The multiple factors that encourage consumption of calorie-laden, nutritionally inadequate foods that can lead to obesity
The positive and negative impact of public policy
The influence of family, culture, socioeconomic status, and other social factors on an individual’s health behaviors as well as access to physical activity opportunities and healthier food options
The role that media and marketing play in food purchasing decisions
With Reversing the Obesogenic Environment, readers will get a cutting-edge view of this emerging body of research with applications that can be realistically implemented in their communities. The book goes beyond defining the issues that contribute to the obesity epidemic—it offers tools that will help practitioners start to reverse it. Throughout the book, the authors incorporate practical recommendations based on the latest research. Sample programs and policies, checklists, and potential solutions offer readers a starting point for changes in their own communities.
The obesity epidemic is a multifaceted issue influenced by factors ranging from international trade and national policy to individual behaviors. Reversing the problem will take coordinated multilevel efforts. These efforts may take years to come to fruition, but it isn’t too late to take action. Reversing the Obesogenic Environment is the ideal guide to taking the first steps toward change.
Reversing the Obesogenic Environment is part of the Physical Activity Intervention Series (PAIS). This timely series provides educational resources for professionals interested in promoting and implementing physical activity and health promotion programs to a diverse and often-resistant population.
Part I: Public Health and Obesity Chapter 1: Emergence of the Obesogenic Environment Chapter 2: Scope of Obesity Chapter 3: Body Composition Measurements
Part II: Physical Activity and Obesity Chapter 4: The Built Environment Chapter 5: Physical Activity Resources Chapter 6: Active Transportation
Part III: Food Accessibility Chapter 7: Food Supply and Security Chapter 8: Food Technology
Part IV: Public Policy, Sociocultural Influences, and Obesity Chapter 9: Policy and Individual Health Choices Chapter 10: Policy and the Obesogenic Environment Chapter 11: Cultural and Familial Influences Chapter 12: Social Justice, Health Disparities, and Obesity
Part V: Media and Marketing Chapter 13: Point of Purchase Chapter 14: Influence of Media and Technology
A reference for public health officials, epidemiologists, health and
fitness professionals, or others interested in the environmental factors
contributing to obesity; also a textbook for upper-level undergraduate
or graduate courses in health promotion, public health, epidemiology,
wellness, or obesity.
Rebecca E. Lee, PhD, is the founding director of the Texas
Obesity Research Center at the University of Houston. Lee is also an
associate professor in the department of health and human performance at
the University of Houston and holds a courtesy appointment at the
University of Texas School of Public Health. She is a community health
psychologist who has been principal investigator for numerous federally
and privately funded research grants. Her studies have focused on
interventions for populations of color, specifically interventions that
incorporate social cohesion, ameliorate social injustices, and improve
the quality of the neighborhood environment.
Lee serves on the editorial boards of the International Journal of
Women’s Health, the American Journal of Health Promotion, and Health
Psychology. She has served as a charter member of the community-level
health promotion study section of the Center for Scientific Review at
the National Institutes of Health and a member and former chair of the
Mayor’s Wellness Council Public Policy Committee, which works to improve
the health of Houstonians.
Dr. Lee is a fellow of the Society of Behavioral Medicine. She is a
member of the Obesity Society and the International Society for
Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. She received the University
of Houston College of Education Research Excellence Award in 2005 and
2008, and she has been recognized by the National Institutes of Health
as a National Health Disparities Scholar. In 2009, her Saving Lives,
Staying Active (SALSA) program was given the Outstanding Achievement for
a Community Program Award by the Texas Council on Cardiovascular Disease
Kristen M. McAlexander, PhD, is a lecturer in the department of
applied physiology and wellness at Southern Methodist University in
Dallas, Texas. Dr. McAlexander’s research interests include
environmental and sociocultural influences of wellness behaviors and
obesity, particularly among vulnerable populations such as women and low
socioeconomic populations. McAlexander is also president and founder of
Reflections Wellness, a local nonprofit organization designed to promote
wellness while fighting local poverty and eliminating health
disparities. Her research and nonprofit organization focus on
understanding and reducing health disparities and improving wellness
opportunities among underserved neighborhoods.
McAlexander received a graduate research award and two graduate
fellowships from the University of Houston department of health and
human performance. McAlexander is an American Council on Exercise (ACE)
certified personal trainer and a member of the Society for Behavioral
Medicine, the American College of Sports Medicine, and the Urban Affairs
Jorge A. Banda, MS, is a PhD candidate in the department of
exercise science at the University of South Carolina in Columbia and a
research assistant at the university’s Prevention Research Center. Banda
holds a master’s degree in exercise science from the University of
Houston. His research has focused primarily on underserved populations,
including low-income-housing residents, African-American and Latina
women, and low-income rural communities.
Banda received a Prevention Research Center Minority Health fellowship
from the Association of Schools of Public Health and the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention, and the Charles Coker Fellowship from
the University of South Carolina. He was twice awarded a Norman Arnold
School of Public Health fellowship. Banda also attended the Built
Environment Assessment Training Institute sponsored by the U.S.
Department of Agriculture, San Diego State University, and the
University of Pennsylvania. He is a member of the American College of
Sports Medicine and the American Public Health Association.