The changing distribution and determinants of obesity in the neighborhoods of new York City, 2003-2007

Jennifer L. Black, James MacInko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Obesity (body mass index ≥30 kg/m2) is a growing urban health concern, but few studies have examined whether, how, or why obesity prevalence has changed over time within cities. This study characterized the individual-and neighborhood-level determinants and distribution of obesity in New York City from 2003 to 2007. Individual-level data from the Community Health Survey (n = 48,506 adults, 34 neighborhoods) were combined with neighborhood measures. Multilevel regression assessed changes in obesity over time and associations with neighborhood-level income and food and physical activity amenities, controlling for age, racial/ethnic identity, education, employment, US nativity, and marital status, stratified by gender. Obesity rates increased by 1.6% (P < 0.05) each year, but changes over time differed significantly between neighborhoods and by gender. Obesity prevalence increased for women, even after controlling for individual-and neighborhood-level factors (prevalence ratio = 1.021, P < 0.05), whereas no significant changes were reported for men. Neighborhood factors including increased area income (prevalence ratio = 0.932) and availability of local food and fitness amenities (prevalence ratio = 0.889) were significantly associated with reduced obesity (P < 0.001). Findings suggest that policies to reduce obesity in urban environments must be informed by up-to-date surveillance data and may require a variety of initiatives that respond to both individual and contextual determinants of obesity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)765-775
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 2010


  • Multilevel analysis
  • New York City
  • Obesity
  • Residence characteristics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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