Using Geographic Information Systems to Identify Obesity Risk Factors

By Ipuna Estavillo Black, Shanna Keele and Robin White.

Published by Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

One-third of U.S. adults are obese, and obesity-related medical costs are estimated at $147 billion annually. The built environment is one critical factor influencing U.S. obesity rates. Specifically, the lack of sidewalks, parks/playgrounds, recreational facilities, adequate public transportation, and local grocery stores carrying healthy foods are elements that should be considered when assessing community obesity rates. Therefore, the purpose of this inquiry was to demonstrate the utilization of geographic information systems (GIS) to discuss obesity risk factors in relation to the built environment of Dallas, Texas (TX). Dallas was chosen as the area of focus for this urban assessment because it is considered America’s fourth “fattest” city and usable shapefiles were available for map creation. GIS was used to create maps to examine neighborhood disparities thought to be risk factors in Dallas obesity rates. Five different maps were created and included: Dallas location in TX; racial dot density; geographic distribution of public schools; higher education institutions; public recreation and parks; grocery stores and super centers; and hospitals. These maps show diverse perspectives of the contributing factors to health disparities such as obesity including population risk factors and the effects of the built environment. Existing maps of school rankings based on state standardized scores and chain grocery stores within one mile for Dallas County census block groups were used for comparison. Resultant GIS maps revealed that the southern regions of Dallas contained many risk factors for obesity including minority ethnicity, low socioeconomic status, as well as decreased access to hospitals, healthy foods and recreational activities.

Keywords: Geographic Information Systems, GIS, Built Environment, Obesity

Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp.79-93. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 880.492KB).

Dr Ipuna Estavillo Black

Associate Professor (Ohio Northern), PhD in Nursing Candidate (UNLV), PhD in Nursing Program in Urban Sustainability: Health (UNLV), Ohio Northern University, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

Ipuna Black has an MSN and is also a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. She is currently a PhD in Nursing candidate at UNLV in Urban Sustainability: Health with a focus on physical activity levels of elementary school children during non-curricular times at school.

Dr. Shanna Keele

PhD Candidate, PhD Nursing Program of Urban Sustainability: Health, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Reno, Nevada, USA

Shanna Keele has an MSN and is also a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner. She is currently a Ph.D. in Nursing candidate at UNLV in Urban Sustainability: Health with a focus on registered nurse retirement and financial sustainability.

Prof. Robin White

Assistant Professor (Ohio Northern), PhD in Nursing Candidate (UNLV), PhD in Nursing Program in Urban Sustainability: Health (UNLV), Ohio Northern University, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Lima, Ohio, USA

Robin M. White, MSN, RN is a PhD in Nursing candidate at UNLV in Urban Sustainability: Health. She has an interest in working with vulnerable populations to decrease health disparities while improving health promotion and disease prevention efforts.