Community Food Environments May be Contributing to Obesity

Developing measures of community food environments

The places in a community where people buy or eat food—what researchers call "nutrition environments"—may be contributing to increasing levels of childhood and adult obesity in the United States.

A research team led by Karen Glanz, PhD, MPH, then at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University:

  • Developed the Nutrition Environments Measures Survey (NEMS)—a series of measures designed to assess the healthfulness of various nutrition environments, including food stores and restaurants
  • Pilot tested the measures in four Atlanta neighborhoods
  • Developed a training program for community advocates and researchers on using the measures

Key Findings

  • As of December 2009, the project team had trained some 385 people from 40 states and eight foreign countries to use the measures.

  • A 2008 follow-up survey found that six months after receiving training:

    • Two-thirds of a sample of participants said they had used the NEMS instrument in their work.
    • About one-third of the sample said they had trained an additional 292 people in the use of the measures.
    • Twenty-one projects had collected data using the measures. Of those, 10 had final results available. Four teams had published NEMS assessments in peer-reviewed journals.

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