Association between the food and physical activity environment, obesity, and cardiovascular health across Maine counties.

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Center for Outcomes and Research, Maine Medical Center Research Institute

Journal Title

BMC public health [electronic resource]

MeSH Headings

Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, Cardiovascular Diseases, Commerce, Cross-Sectional Studies, Diet, Environment, Exercise, Fast Foods, Female, Health Behavior, Humans, Income, Maine, Male, Middle Aged, Obesity, Risk Factors, Rural Population, United States, Young Adult


BACKGROUND: Accounting for nearly one-third of all deaths, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of mortality and morbidity in the United States. Adverse health behaviors are major determinants of this high incidence of disease. Examining local food and physical activity environments and population characteristics in a poor, rural state may highlight underlying drivers of these behaviors. We aimed to identify demographic and environmental factors associated with both obesity and overall poor cardiovascular health (CVH) behaviors in Maine counties.

METHODS: Our cross-sectional study analyzed 40,398 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) 2011-2014 respondents alongside county-level United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Environment Atlas 2010-2012 measures of the built environment (i.e., density of restaurants, convenience stores, grocery stores, and fitness facilities; food store access; and county income). Poor CVH score was defined as exhibiting greater than 5 out of the 7 risk factors defined by the American Heart Association (current smoking, physical inactivity, obesity, poor diet, hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol). Multivariable logistic regression models described the contributions of built environment variables to obesity and overall poor CVH score after adjustment for demographic controls.

RESULTS: Both demographic and environmental factors were associated with obesity and overall poor CVH. After adjustment for demographics (age, sex, personal income, and education), environmental characteristics most strongly associated with obesity included low full-service restaurant density (OR 1.34; 95% CI 1.24-1.45), low county median household income (OR 1.31; 95% CI 1.21-1.42) and high convenience store density (OR 1.21; 95% CI 1.12-1.32). The strongest predictors of overall poor CVH behaviors were low county median household income (OR 1.30; 95% CI 1.13-1.51), low full-service restaurant density (OR 1.38; 95% CI 1.19-1.59), and low fitness facility density (OR 1.27; 95% CI 1.11-1.46).

CONCLUSIONS: In a rural state, both demographic and environmental factors predict overall poor CVH. These findings may help inform communities and policymakers of the impact of both social determinants of health and local environments on health outcomes.



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