Impact of Changes in the Food, Built, and Socioeconomic Environment on BMI in US Counties, BRFSS 2003-2012

Pasquale E. Rummo, Justin M. Feldman, Priscilla Lopez, David Lee, Lorna E. Thorpe, Brian Elbel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Researchers have linked geographic disparities in obesity to community-level characteristics, yet many prior observational studies have ignored temporality and potential for bias. Methods: Repeated cross-sectional data were used from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) (2003-2012) to examine the influence of county-level characteristics (active commuting, unemployment, percentage of limited-service restaurants and convenience stores) on BMI. Each exposure was calculated using mean values over the 5-year period prior to BMI measurement; values were standardized; and then variables were decomposed into (1) county means from 2003 to 2012 and (2) county-mean-centered values for each year. Cross-sectional (between-county) and longitudinal (within-county) associations were estimated using a random-effects within-between model, adjusting for individual characteristics, survey method, and year, with nested random intercepts for county-years within counties within states. Results: A negative between-county association for active commuting (β = −0.19; 95% CI: −0.23 to −0.16) and positive associations for unemployment (β = 0.17; 95% CI: 0.14 to 0.19) and limited-service restaurants (β = 0.13; 95% CI: 0.11 to 0.14) were observed. An SD increase in active commuting within counties was associated with a 0.51-kg/m2 (95% CI: −0.72 to −0.31) decrease in BMI over time. Conclusions: These results suggest that community-level characteristics play an important role in shaping geographic disparities in BMI between and within communities over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-39
Number of pages9
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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