An article by Ms. Maura Kepper, a doctoral student at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center School of Public Health in Community Health Sciences, was published August 25 in the World Obesity Pediatric Obesity Journal.
[Photo: Ms. Maura Kepper]
Entitled Pre-School Obesity is Inversely Associated with Vegetable Intake, Grocery Stores and Outdoor Play, the article chronicles a study which was conducted to determine the association with body mass index (BMI) z scores of 78 Louisiana pre-school children with “frequency and ratio of fast food outlets and grocery stores in concentric areas around (each) child’s residence” as well as total crime index, outdoor play, and fruit and vegetable intake.
As lead author on the article, Ms. Kepper was joined by a group of SPH faculty members (Dr. Tung-Sung Tseng, Dr. Julia Volaufova, Dr. Richard Scribner, Dr. Henry Nuss and Dr. Melinda Sothern) from the Behavioral and Community Health Sciences, Epidemiology and Biostatistics programs in conducting the study and analyzing its findings.
An outdoor playtime checklist was completed by parents or guardians of the children. The study correlated those data with geocoded residences of the children linked to crime risk data in their census tracts. Evaluation of intake of vegetables and fruits also were self-reported by parents and guardians.
Participants, who averaged 2.94 years, were 49% male and 54% white. One of the findings among these subjects was that “White children had the highest mean BMI z score compared to Black children.”
While the article’s title states the findings of inverse association of pre-school obesity with vegetable intake, outdoor play and access to groceries, the paper concludes that other factors still need to be studied. These include the proximity to convenience stores, the eating and activity behaviors of parents, the specific measures of neighborhood crimes, and the modes of transportation available to subjects.
“This was the first study to examine varying distances of fast food outlets, grocery stores and the ratio of fast food outlets to grocery stores around the child’s residence.” However, the article asserts that more study is needed to examine these environmental conditions in conjunction with more detailed behavioral factors, and that a larger cohort of subjects would also be desirable.
In conclusion, the authors plan to conduct additional research “which examines environmental conditions and individual behaviors concurrently …to promote the implementation of effective policies to reduce obesity risk in pre-school children.”