Neighborhood Research

Environmental Changes and Health Outcomes across 25 Years: Four US Cities (R01- HL114091). National Institutes of Health, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Principal Investigator: Penny Gordon-Larsen. 09/01/2011-6/30/2015.

Obesity and Metabolic Risk Disparities: Underlying Food Environment Factors (1R01-HL104580). National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Principal Investigator: Penny Gordon-Larsen. 8/02/2010-6/30/2015.

The objective of this research was to investigate how social and economic factors influence diet and activity behaviors, which then influence weight and cardiometabolic risk. Each of these two projects focused on elements of this complex relationship. Both projects used data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study, which follows a cohort of 18-30 year olds over 25 years. Our team used Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology to create time-varying variables related to recreation, eating and food shopping facilities, crime, sociodemographics, and built environment factors that we merged to the CARDIA dataset. These exciting data allowed us to measure and understand how factors in the neighborhood environment influence diet, activity, obesity, weight, and chronic disease risk.

The Obesity and Metabolic Risk Disparities project focused on economic factors related to diet and diet-related diseases. In this project we focused heavily on health disparities and one of the major goals of the project was to identify modifiable environmental factors that could be used to increase health and reduce disparities between white and black adults in the US.

The Four Cities project focused on unique methods to generate retrospective and contemporary data on the timing and placement of introductions, renovations, and closures of: 1) food resources (e.g., restaurants, food shopping); 2) recreation facilities (e.g., trails, parks); and 3) transportation infrastructure (e.g., light rail, bike parking, bike paths) in the four CARDIA baseline cities: Birmingham, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Oakland over a 25-d ar period. A key element of this project was the use of sophisticated statistical models to account for the placement of food and activity facilities according to demand and selective migration to take advantage of such resources.

Our team was comprised of a well-established team of researchers who have worked together for the past 15 years: Dr. Barry Popkin, the Carla Smith Chamblee Distinguished Professor of Global Nutrition and Dr. David Guilkey, the Cary C. Boshamer Professor, Economics. In addition, we worked with Dr. Daniel Rodriguez and Dr. Yan Song, both Professors in the Department of City and Regional Planning.

In addition, we worked closely with our CARDIA collaborators, Dr. David R. Jacobs of the University of Minnesota, Dr. Steve Sidney of Kaiser Permanente, Dr. Kiang Liu of Northwestern University, Dr. Cora E. Lewis of the University of Alabama, Dr. Catarina Kiefe of the University Massachusetts, and Dr. Ana Diez-Roux of the University of Michigan. Visit the CARDIA website to learn more about the study at