Creating ‘obesogenic realities’; do our methodological choices make a difference when measuring the food environment?

Burgoine, Thomas, Alvanides, Seraphim and Lake, Amelia (2013) Creating ‘obesogenic realities’; do our methodological choices make a difference when measuring the food environment? International Journal of Health Geographics, 12 (1). p. 33. ISSN 1476-072X

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1476-072X-12-33

Abstract

Background
The use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to objectively measure ‘obesogenic’ food environment (foodscape) exposure has become common-place. This increase in usage has coincided with the development of a methodologically heterogeneous evidence-base, with subsequent perceived difficulties for inter-study comparability. However, when used together in previous work, different types of food environment metric have often demonstrated some degree of covariance. Differences and similarities between density and proximity metrics, and within methodologically different conceptions of density and proximity metrics need to be better understood.

Methods
Frequently used measures of food access were calculated for North East England, UK. Using food outlet data from local councils, densities of food outlets per 1000 population and per km2 were calculated for small administrative areas. Densities (counts) were also calculated based on population-weighted centroids of administrative areas buffered at 400/800/1000m street network and Euclidean distances. Proximity (street network and Euclidean distances) from these centroids to the nearest food outlet were also calculated. Metrics were compared using Spearman’s rank correlations.

Results
Measures of foodscape density and proximity were highly correlated. Densities per km2 and per 1000 population were highly correlated (rs = 0.831). Euclidean and street network based measures of proximity (rs = 0.865) and density (rs = 0.667-0.764, depending on neighbourhood size) were also highly correlated. Density metrics based on administrative areas and buffered centroids of administrative areas were less strongly correlated (rs = 0.299-0.658).

Conclusions
Density and proximity metrics were largely comparable, with some exceptions. Whilst results suggested a substantial degree of comparability across existing studies, future comparability could be ensured by moving towards a more standardised set of environmental metrics, where appropriate, lessening the potential pitfalls of methodological variation between studies. The researchers’ role in creating their own obesogenic ‘reality’ should be better understood and acknowledged.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Open Access article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Obesogenic environments; foodscape; methods; exposure; density; proximity
Subjects: B400 Nutrition
L700 Human and Social Geography
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Applied Sciences
Faculties > Engineering and Environment > Geography and Environmental Sciences
Depositing User: Becky Skoyles
Date Deposited: 04 Oct 2013 13:13
Last Modified: 24 Oct 2017 11:25
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/13691

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