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Young Adult Environment, Physical Activity & Diet Dynamics in the CARDIA Study

Penny Gordon-Larsen, Ph.D. for the CARDIA Obesity and Environment Investigators

Meeting Summary
Agenda and Abstracts
Speaker Roster

There are major gaps in our understanding of the way shifts in the physical and social environment affect changes in dietary intake and physical activity patterns among any age group. This new study will focus on modifiable factors in the physical environment [i.e., community design features, recreation facilities (e.g., public, private), eating and shopping facilities, transportation options (e.g., public transportation), food prices, crime, and air pollution] that might contribute to the differential distribution of physical activity and dietary intake patterns. This research specifically addresses race/ethnic disparity in physical activity and dietary intake patterns that is related to disparities in environmental stressors.

The sample includes participants in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study (CARDIA), a longitudinal study of the antecedents and risk factors for cardiovascular disease in an ethnicity-, age-, and sex-balanced cohort of 5,115 black and white young adults aged 18-30 years at baseline (1985-86). The Obesity and Environment study is an approved CARDIA Ancillary Study. The central task of this study is to link geographically, using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technologies, time-varying respondent residential addresses from four CARDIA study years (1985-86, 1992-93, 1995-96, and 2000-01) with contemporaneous data on environmental factors derived from a series of federal and commercial data bases. This work will allow exploration of the density and proximity of individual CARDIA respondents to diet and activity-related facilities and resources, and the subsequent impact on physical activity, diet, and obesity patterns. The research team will use a system of innovative, analytical time-varying methods that allow sophisticated analysis to examine a rich set of hypotheses and issues related to environmental factors and their relationship to physical activity and diet behaviors over time.

Complex longitudinal and spatial analytical models will be used to explore relationships between environmental factors and physical activity, diet, and obesity. Physical activity and diet will be separately modeled as a function of covariates, some of which may be endogenous choices made by individuals. Race/ethnic differentials in these effects and the impact of shifts in the environment over time and through the lifecycle will be examined. The longitudinal analysis and the vast array of environmental measures used, coupled with the very high quality physical activity and dietary intake measures of CARDIA, provide the opportunity to capture the effects of the environment (and changes in location) on physical activity and dietary shifts.

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