Presentation at the 2008 Active Living Research Annual Conference
Obesity is a problem throughout the United States and especially in New Orleans, Louisiana. Health knowledge about obesity and its consequences is high yet the epidemic continues. Changing the environment to promote physical activity is a promising approach to addressing the obesity epidemic. A baseline household survey was conducted to assess factors related to walking and physical activity in three, low-income New Orleans’ neighborhoods. A follow-up survey will be conducted in the fall of 2008 after physical and social interventions have been implemented in one of the three communities.
The objective of this analysis is to examine factors related to walking including the community social and physical environment.
Trained interviewers administered a household survey to randomly selected adult members of households from three, low-income neighborhoods in New Orleans. Baseline survey administration took place from October 2006 through February 2007. The interview took approximately 45 minutes to complete. Means and standard deviations were computed for continuous variables. Pearson’s chi-square statistic was used to assess significant differences between categorical variables. P-values less than 0.05 were considered significant. SAS was used for all analyses. We examined walking for exercise/leisure and transportation separately.
The response rate was 74.9% with 499 completed interviews. Nearly all respondents were African American (94.0%) and over half were female (61.2%). The mean age was 44.4 (± 14.1) years. Average income was less than $20,000 per year. Both males (mean BMI: 27.2 ± 5.9) and females were overweight (mean BMI: 29.5 ± 7.6) yet there was no association between self-reported BMI and walking for transportation or exercise. Over half the respondents (60.8%) walked for exercise while only 26.8% walked for transportation, 31.2% walked for neither and 18.8% walked for both. There was no association between gender or age and walking but education and income were significantly associated with walking. Those who drove to work and/or owned a car were less likely to walk for transportation (drove to work: yes 11.8% v no 68.8% p< 0.001); (own car: yes 10.7% v 60.7%, p< 0.001) and less likely to walk for exercise (drive to work: yes 55.4% v no 75.0%, p=0.006); (own car: yes 57.6% v no 67.3%, p=0.044). Questions regarding the community social environment (ie, good place to live, feel at home, good for children, neighbors take care of homes, safety) were assessed in relation to walking for transportation and exercise/leisure. Those who walk for exercise have a significantly more positive attitude toward the neighborhood than those who do not. On the other hand, those who walk for transportation have a more negative attitude than those who do not. Physical characteristics of the neighborhoods were assessed and only a few significant associations were found with walking for transportation. Those who walk for transportation were more likely to agree that there is large debris and abandoned buildings in the neighborhood (p<0.02, p<0.03). Sidewalks and streets were the most commonly used sites for walking. Both those who walk for exercise/leisure and those who walk for transportation find safety of location and condition of the place very important.
Walking was a common form of activity in the neighborhoods. Those who walked for transportation did so because of lack of access to a car. Those who walked for exercise had a more positive outlook about their neighborhood than those who walked for transportation. This may be due to fact that those who walked for transportation did so out of necessity due to lack of ability to afford a car rather then choosing to spend their free time walking. Likewise, they may be seeing the neighborhood on a daily basis and have a more realistic view of the area. Crime and condition of these neighborhoods are important influences on whether respondents walk. Addressing these issues as well as the condition of sidewalks and streets could encourage more people to walk in their neighborhood on a regular basis.
CDC Prevention Research Center program by Cooperative Agreement # 1-U48-DP-000047