DRIVING FACTORS OF OBESITY IN SOUTH TEXAS: EXPLORING SPATIAL ACCESS IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD PHYSICAL ACTIVITY ENVIRONMENT IN NUECES COUNTY, TEXAS
NJAGI, NYAMBURA GACHETTE
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Obesity is a growing health concern in Nueces County. In fact, three years ago the county seat of Nueces County, Corpus Christi, was reported as the “Fattest City in America” by Men’s Health magazine (Colleti and Masters, 2010) – an alarming fact but one that mirrors a national trend. According to at least one statistic, 46% of the U.S. population will be obese by 2018 (Swaney, 2012). The rate and magnitude of the problem is so great that many researchers believe that individual risk factors alone, such as genetics, cannot account for the trend. Factors associated with the areas in which we live and work, including spatial accessibility to physical activity sites, may have a greater impact on obesogenic behavior such as failing to consistently engage in adequate physical activity. Consequently, neighborhood-level analyses (such as zip code-level or census tract-level) are becoming more prevalent in the health science literature in order to better understand how neighborhood environmental factors mediate obesity. Neighborhoods with better spatial accessibility to physical activity sites are thought to increase physical activity. While it is clear that lack of physical activity is a major contributing factor to obesity and overweight there is little local information about environmental factors that influence obesity in Nueces County. In this study, each census tract was considered as an individual neighborhood and neighborhood spatial accessibility to physical activity sites was measured using network analysis. A total of 338 physical activity sites in 82 neighborhoods were analyzed. Populations that live inside the Corpus Christi urban area have greater accessibility to every type of physical activity examined including parks, fitness sites, golf courses, youth and senior recreation centers as well as physical sports and fun sites.