From February 2017, information about the work of the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow is available and updated on the University of Glasgow website.

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Research Projects

Do neighbourhood environments contribute to ethnic differences in obesity, physical activity and diets?

Principal Investigator: Dr Seeromanie Harding

Co-applicants: Dr Anne Ellaway , Professor Alastair Leyland , Professor Ade Kearns (Dept. Urban Studies, University of Glasgow)

Halting the rise in obesity is a policy priority as reflected in a range of government initiatives on diet and physical activity in schools and the community, and on legislation to promote a food classification system to make choosing healthy food easy. This study will enhance these initiatives by developing the evidence base about the extent to which ethnic minorities are exposed to obesogenic (obesity promoting) environments. In adulthood, Black Caribbean, Black African and Pakistani women are more likely to be obese than women in the general population. South Asians are more prone to abdominal adiposity. In adolescence, Black African origin girls are already more likely to be obese. In contrast to the US, there is very little research on the effect of neighbourhood environments on ethnic differences in health in the UK. Ethnic minority groups are spatially concentrated in relatively deprived urbanised areas and worry more about crime than their White peers. Physical characteristics of the neighbourhood such as the presence of grocery stores that sell healthy foods, safe parks, and recreational facilities, may promote healthy eating and exercise through increased availability and accessibility. Deprived areas may be less well served with these facilities. Perceptions of safety in neighbourhoods also influence the likelihood of taking physical activity. Aim: The overall aim of this study is to examine whether ethnic differences in physical activity and dietary patterns, BMI and obesity status are related to exposures in the neighbourhoods they live in. Method: The Health Surveys for England (HSE) (1999 and 2004) holds a range of data on individuals (e.g. including physical activity, diet, body size) from the major ethnic minority groups. Area measures of ethnic density, deprivation, food retail environment and physical activity opportunities will be obtained from a range of data sources (e.g. Neighbourhood Statistics, SportEngland). These ecologic data will be merged to the individual records on the HSE. The distribution of resources and the mean distance from to the nearest resource will be explored in relation to deprivation and ethnic density. Different measures of ethnic density will be used to reflect concentration and clustering in particular areas. Multilevel models will be used to examine how individual characteristics (compositional factors) and area-level variables (contextual factors) relate to ethnic differences in outcomes.



Molaodi OR, Leyland AH, Ellaway A, Kearns A, Harding S. Neighbourhood food and physical activity environments in England, UK: does ethnic density matter?. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2012;9:75

pubmed  open access