Linking a Child’s Environment to Obesity

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]There is a global childhood obesity epidemic and researchers in the United States are working toward solutions, including prevention. Compared to adults, there has been relatively little research linking a child’s environment to their weight. This report, published in The Obesity Journal on August 23,2018, is a continuation of findings from the Neighborhood Impact on Kids (NIK) study and focuses on both physical activity and nutrition environments, two  factors that can affect a child’s weight. Behavioral factors were also considered, like daily energy intake and sedentary behavior.

A team of researchers gathered data twice over a two year span, in four types of different metropolitan neighborhoods in two large cities. They looked at several factors, like the age of the parents and the proximity of a quality park, then compared these data for each child to the child’s BMI. A favorable neighborhood in the study had a supermarket nearby with good nutrition and a quality park within walking distance of the child’s home. Less favorable neighborhoods had fast food easily accessible, no supermarkets nearby and nowhere for the children to play within a 1/2 mile. The findings looked at whether the neighborhood characteristics predicted the children outcomes going forward over the two years of the study.

The results of the study showed that children living in less favorable neighborhoods were 41% to 49% more likely to be overweight, and that these effects were found across two years. City planners and developers can use this evidence when designing neighborhoods that support healthy families.

Karen Glanz, PhD, MPH, a co-author on the study, noted “This study is unique and important in that it allowed us to make clear comparisons between ‘healthier’ and ‘less healthy’ food and activity environments over multiple years. The findings underscore how important environments can be in shaping behaviors and the health of children.”

Neighborhoods Impact on Kids (NIK) is an observational study, evaluating cross-sectional and longitudinal associations of neighborhood-level activity and nutrition environments with children’s weight status and obesity. The study is led by Dr. Brian Saelens, currently at Seattle Children’s Hospital.[/vc_column_text][vc_btn title=”Read the study” link=”||target:%20_blank|”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”2293″ img_size=”full” onclick=”img_link_large” css=”.vc_custom_1536245556069{border-radius: 2px !important;}”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

How Does GPS-Based Exposure to Greenness & Walkability Impact Physical Activity? PRC Director Karen Glanz

A new study in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention by PRC Director Karen Glanz, PhD, MPH, and co-authors supports evidence that individuals may obtain higher levels of physical activity in more walkable environments. Their findings “also suggest that the built environment may be a more important factor than the natural environment when considering routine location-based physical activity. As the popularity of GPS- and accelerometer-enabled smartphones grows alongside accelerometry-based consumer wearable devices (55–58), these novel streams of spatial energetics data will provide translational insights into potential interventions to improve urban planning and green space development to optimize opportunities for physical activity and reduce cancer risk.”

UPenn PRC Impact Symposium – Accelerating Policies & Research on Food Access, Diet, and Obesity Prevention

On Friday, April 28th, the UPenn PRC hosted ” Accelerating Policies & Research on Food Access, Diet, and Obesity Prevention”, a day-long symposium which brought together prevention health researchers and public health advocates to discuss today’s food environment and focus on future directions for this important health topic. Special thanks to the Planning Committee and the UPenn PRC Training Core faculty and staff for their leadership and support in making this event possible. Enjoy the photo album of the whole day at the bottom of this page!
PRC Directors Karen Glanz, PhD, MPH, and Kevin Volpp, MD, MPH, with morning Keynote Speaker Margo Wooten ScD, Center for Science in the Public Interest, who spoke on: Supporting Healthy Eating Through Nutrition Policy
Mariana Chilton, PhD, MPH, Center for Hunger-Free Communities, delivered the afternoon Keynote: From Evidence on Hunger, to Action on Food, to Community Transformation.
Jennifer Pomeranz, JD, MPH, NYU College of Global Public Health
Tracy Fox, MPH, RD, Food, Nutrition & Policy Consultants, LLC
Amy Yaroch, PhD, Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition
Allison Karpyn, PhD, University of Delaware: Achieving Food Security in Small Island Developing States, the Bahamas Example
Cheryl Bettigole, MD, MPH, Philadelphia Department of Public Health: Improving Health Through Food Policies
Carolyn Cannuscio, ScD, ScM, University of Pennsylvania: Advancing Literacy Through Cooking
Yael Lehmann, MS, The Food Trust, and Brian Lang, MA, National Campaign for Healthy Food Access: Public Policy & Healthy Food Access in the Trump Era
Breakout Session Group Report Out.
Alyssa Yackle, MPA, Amy Bleakley, PhD, MPH, Moriah Hall, MPH, Ben Young, all from the University of Pennsylvania. Moderated by Douglas J. Wiebe, PhD, UPenn PRC Training Core Lead
Afternoon Panel Session: Translating Research into High Impact Policy.
Jamie Chriqui, PhD, MHS, University of Illinois Chicago PRC,Stephenie Lemon, PhD, UMass Worcester PRC, Alice Ammerman, DrPH, University of North Carolina PRC, Carolyn Johnson, PhD, Tulane PRC


Coming in April!!! PRC Symposium: Accelerating Policies & Research on Food Access, Diet, and Obesity Prevention








On Friday, April 28th, the University of Pennsylvania Prevention Research Center is hosting a symposium: “Accelerating Policies & Research on Food Access, Diet, and Obesity Prevention.” This one-day interdisciplinary event highlights the most current research on food access, diet, and obesity.  Distinguished scholars and leaders in the fields of public health and nutrition will focus on bridging the gap between research and practice. For more information and to register, go to:



Framing Financial Incentives For the Overweight & Obese – PRC Director Kevin Volpp, MD, PhD

A study by PRC Director Kevin Volpp, MD, PhD, and other health behavior researchers at the University of Pennsylvania shows that financial incentives for increasing physical activity are highly effective among the population of overweight and obese.

“Most workplace wellness programs typically offer the reward after the goal is achieved,” said senior author Kevin G. Volpp, MD, PhD. “Our findings demonstrate that the potential of losing a reward is a more powerful motivator and adds important knowledge to our understanding of how to use financial incentives to encourage employee participation in wellness programs.”

The study was reported on in the Knowridge Science Report and was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.