We Are Where We Live: How Neighborhood Disorder and Crime Impact Physical Activity, Weight and Racial Disparities in Health

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine analyzed:

  • The influence of neighborhood physical disorder and crime on levels of physical activity and obesity among people living in Philadelphia.
  • The extent to which neighborhood factors contribute to racial disparities in health.

They also compared traditional methodological approaches to defining neighborhood characteristics with more novel approaches.

This project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) Active Living Research program. The program funds research that improves knowledge and policies regarding ways that environmental factors affect physical activity, particularly for children.

Key Findings

  • A higher level of neighborhood physical disorder was significantly associated with an increased risk of obesity.
  • Neighborhood crime was not associated with weight status or level of physical activity.
  • African Americans were less physically active than Whites regardless of the characteristics of their neighborhoods.
  • Use of administrative units and geographic information systems (GIS) technology to characterize neighborhoods yielded similar and consistent results.