Advanced Spatial Analysis

This website is preserved as an Archive for the NIH-funded GISPopSci / Advanced Spatial Analysis Training Programs (2005–2013). Current resources in support of
Spatially Integrated Social Science
are now available at the following:


Research Project Details

Neighborhood, Food Environment, Diet and Health: Quasi-experimental Study

Discipline: GIS     Public Health               

Project Category:
Institution: Population Research Institute at The Pennsylvania State University
Principal Investigators: Stephen A. Matthews (Penn State) Steve Cummins (Queen Mary, London) Ana Diez Roux (Michigan) and the Survey Research Center at Penn State Food Trust, Philadelphia
Grant Number: NIEHS 1 R21 ES014211-01

Description: Reducing the population prevalence of obesity is a current major public health goal. Interventions to reduce the prevalence of obesity have generally focused on individual behavior and lifestyle but have met with limited success. Strategies that focus on the role of the built environment have been neglected. The purpose of this innovative pilot study is to evaluate, using a quasi-experimental design, the impact on diet and psychological health of a five-year $40 million state-government funded program – The Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative - that aims to improve the local built food retail environment in Philadelphia. The project has four specific aims. 1) To describe and compare fruit and vegetable consumption patterns and measures of psychological health in an intervention neighborhood against a matched comparison neighborhood. 2) To evaluate whether these patterns change after the opening of a new food superstore (the intervention) in the intervention neighborhood compared to a matched comparison site. 3) To explore impacts on defined subgroups of residents based on income, education and baseline consumption status. 4) To investigate changes in the retail economy in the intervention neighborhood and compare these with the comparison neighborhood. A telephone survey of residents of two Philadelphia neighborhoods (one intervention and one comparison) with an achieved sample size of four hundred and sixty-six men and women aged 18+ in each neighborhood at follow-up will be undertaken. At baseline, respondents will be contacted with a pre-notification letter which will then be followed by a telephone call designed to elicit responses to questions relating to diet, mental health, perceptions of food access, food shopping behavior, transport and a range of socio-demographic data. Respondents will then be followed-up at eight months in order to assess the effect of the intervention. In addition geographical information systems will be used to assess positive and negative changes in the local food retail economy and relate them to changes in physical access to food. Findings from the project will be used to prepare a proposal to NIH for a larger mixed-method, multi-site experimental study in a range of community settings (urban, small town, rural) throughout the USA. More >>

Related Publications: Cummins S, Findlay A, Higgins C, Petticrew M and L Sparks (under review) Large-scale food retailing as health intervention: quasi-experimental evaluation of a natural experiment. Cummins S, Sparks L, Petticrew M, Findlay A (2005) Large scale food retail interventions and diet. BMJ Cummins S, Macintyre S (2002) Food-deserts - evidence and assumption in health policy making. BMJ 325:436-8 Cummins S & Macintyre S (1999) The location of food stores in urban areas: a case study in Glasgow British Food Journal 101 (7) p542 Diez Roux AV (2001). Investigating area and neighborhood effects on health. Am J Public Health 91(11):1783-9. Diez Roux AV. (2000) Multilevel analysis in public health research. Annual Rev Public Health. 21:171-92. Diez-Roux AV, Nieto FJ, Caulfield L, et al (1999). NeighbourhoodNeighborhood differences in diet: the atherosclerosis risk in communities (ARIC) study. J Epidemiol Community Health 53:55–63. Diez-Roux AV (1998) Bringing context back in: variables and fallacies in multi-level analysis. Am J Public Health. 88(2):216-22 Diez Roux AV, Nieto FJ, Muntaner C, Tyroler HA, Comstock GW et al (1997). Neighborhood environments and coronary heart disease: a multilevel analysis. Am J Epidemiol. 146:48-63. Diez-Roux AV, Nieto FJ, Caulfield L, et al (1999). NeighbourhoodNeighborhood differences in diet: the atherosclerosis risk in communities (ARIC) study. J Epidemiol Community Health 53:55–63.

Contact: Stephen A. Matthews