A Spatial and Statistical Analysis of Childhood Obesity in the District of Columbia Open Access
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The United States is currently experiencing a rapid rise in obesity prevalence of epidemic proportions. This obesity epidemic contains considerable geographic and demographic disparities and is affecting a significant proportion of the child population. Often these disparities manifest themselves on a very local neighborhood by neighborhood scale in cities. While much research has focused on the direct causes of obesity, less research has focused on the indirect ways in which neighborhood built environments and other geographic neighborhood characteristics might be affecting the dietary and physical activity causes of obesity and ultimately obesity itself. Therefore, this thesis explores the relationship that exists between neighborhood built, socioeconomic, physical activity, and food environments and the spatial distribution of childhood obesity in Washington, DC. This study was conducted at multiple spatial scales including individuals, census block groups, census tracts, tax assessment neighborhoods, and urban planning neighborhoods. The results indicate that childhood obesity in the District of Columbia is statistically significantly spatially clustered and that neighborhood race/ethnic composition and/or median household income explain most of the spatial variation in childhood obesity prevalence rates. The results also indicate that certain characteristics of neighborhood food and physical activity environments, such as proximity to carry outs and convenience stores, can help moderately explain some of the spatial variation in childhood obesity prevalence that race/ethnicity and household income could not.