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 ObesogenicEnvironment 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.
About the Author
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 and Stroke
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 Association.
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.
Table of Contents
Part I: Public Health and Obesity
Chapter 1: Emergence of the Obesogenic Environment
Historical Emergence of Obesity as a Public Health Concern
The Case for an Obesogenic Environment
Ecologic Models of Health and the Importance of Supportive Environments
Chapter 2: Scope of Obesity
Causes of Obesity
Health Risks Associated With Overweight and Obesity
Social and Psychological Costs of Obesity
Chapter 3: Body Composition Measurements
Part II: Physical Activity and Obesity
Chapter 4: The Built Environment
Components of the Built Environment
Measuring the Built Environment
Limitations of Research on the Built Environment
Neighborhood Walkability and Physical Activity
Emerging Research and Recommendations
Chapter 5: Physical Activity Resources
Parks and Open Spaces
Walking Trails and Bikeways
Factors Influencing the Use of Physical Activity Resources
Measuring Physical Activity Resources
Emerging Research and Implications for the Future
Chapter 6: Active Transportation
Personal Automobile and Obesity
Active Transport to School
Part III: Food Accessibility
Chapter 7: Food Supply and Security
Imports and Exports
Nutritional Disparities, Obesity, and Undernutrition
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
Chapter 8: Food Technology
Part IV: Public Policy, Sociocultural Influences, and Obesity
Chapter 9: Policy and Individual Health Choices
Levels of Preventions
Regulations at the Point of Purchase
Incentives for Good Behavior
Chapter 10: Policy and the Obesogenic Environment
Food Industry and Food Environments
Chapter 11: Cultural and Familial Influences
Family Culture Within the Ecologic Model of Obesity
Chapter 12: Social Justice, Health Disparities, and Obesity
SES, Social Injustices, Health Behaviors, and Obesity
Resiliency to Social Injustices
Part V: Media and Marketing
Chapter 13: Point of Purchase
Marketing, Advertising, Branding
The Four Ps
Chapter 14: Influence of Media and Technology
Biological Responses to Food Images
Television Advertising and Children
Media Interventions Strategies
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.