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Measurement of the Food & Physical Activity Environments:
Enhancing Research Relevant to Policy on Diet, Physical Activity, & Weight

Cover of American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Volume 36, Issue 4, Supplement 1

Given the high rates of obesity prevalence in the United States and around the world, research interest has grown regarding the effects of the community food and physical activity environments on individual diet and activity behavior. Robust measures of these environments are required in order to assess any effect.

Measurement of food and physical environments is a relatively young field, although many "first generation" measures exist. Researchers use a variety of methods to measure these environments, including survey instruments (self-reported and observed) and methodologies such as geographic information systems.

To stimulate further progress in this vital research area, NCI, in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and other NIH Institutes and Centers, organized the "Measures of the Food and Built Environments Workshop" in November 2007. The April 2009 supplement to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reports on the workshop proceedings.

The supplement highlights the need for:

  • better reporting of validity and reliability of measures;
  • tailoring or validation of measures for communities of populations at high risk for obesity (e.g., rural, low-income, racial/ethnic minority communities); and
  • refinement of conceptual models.

Electronic copies of individual articles from the supplement are available upon request; please contact Susan Scott. The titles of the articles are:

  • Introduction to the Supplement:
    • Measuring the Food and Physical Activity Environments: Shaping the Research Agenda
  • History of measurement of community food and physical activity environments:
    • Measuring Physical Activity Environments: A Brief History
    • Measuring Food Environments: A Historical Perspective
  • The state of the science of measuring these environments:
    • Measuring the Built Environment for Physical Activity: State of the Science
    • Measures of the Food Environment: A Compilation of the Literature, 1999-2007
    • Measuring the Food Environment: State of the Science
  • Measurement of the food and physical activity environments of populations at increased risk of obesity and related health conditions:
    • Measuring Food Availability and Access in African-American Communities: Implications for Intervention and Policy
    • Measuring Potential Access to Food Stores and Food-Service Places in Rural Areas in the US
    • Measurement of Park and Recreation Environments That Support Physical Activity in Low-Income Communities of Color: Highlights of Challenges and Recommendations
    • Physical, Consumer, and Social Aspects of Measuring the Food Environment Among Diverse Low-Income Populations
  • Summaries of discussions and recommendations from four workshop breakout groups:
    • Work Group I: Measures of the Food and Physical Activity: Instruments
    • Work Group II: Using Geographic Information Systems for Enhancing Research Relevant to Policy on Diet, Physical Activity, and Weight
    • Work Group III: Methodologic Issues in Research on the Food and Physical Activity Environments: Addressing Data Complexity
    • Work Group IV: Future Directions for Measures of the Food and Physical Activity Environments

Complete citation:

Measurement of the Food and Physical Activity Environments - Enhancing Research Relevant to Policy on Diet, Physical Activity, and Weight. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Volume 36, Issue 4, Supplement 1, Pages A1-A6, S81-S190 (April 2009). Edited by Robin A. McKinnon, Jill Reedy, Susan L. Handy and Anne Brown Rodgers.

Last Modified: 03 Sep 2013