Investigating Childhood Overweight and Obesity in Rural Settings
Serrano, Katrina 1983-
MetadataShow full item record
Children?s risk for overweight and obesity is particularly high in rural areas of the United States. Many health, psychosocial, and economic consequences are associated with childhood overweight and obesity, which concerns health researchers and professionals. But how and why might rural children be more at risk for being overweight and obese? This dissertation investigates childhood overweight and obesity in rural settings through three separate studies. First, a systematic literature review was conducted to identify determinants and mechanisms of childhood obesity-related behaviors that are specific to rural locations. The findings from the review show that lack of health resources and poverty within the rural environment may impact children?s social environment and individual factors. However, results are inconclusive and there continues to be a lack of studies focusing on linking environmental influence with individual factors. Second, a meta-analysis of current research evidence was conducted to assess the efficacy of rural interventions designed to reduce childhood overweight and obesity. Results showed that interventions have been efficacious yet modest, with a mean effect size of 0.18. Moderating variables were also examined. Mean intervention effect size was moderated by children?s age and intervention duration. Last, secondary data were used to examine the association between rural food stores and availability and affordability of fresh fruits and vegetables. A multilevel analytical approach was used to determine if rural location was associated with availability and affordability of fresh fruits and vegetables. After controlling for other variables, results showed that rural location was not associated with fruit and vegetable availability and affordability. The findings from this dissertation suggest that the area of rural childhood overweight and obesity remains understudied. More research is needed in order to understand the mechanisms of social ecological influences on diet, physical activity, and childhood overweight and obesity. This area of research, however, is rife with opportunities for public health education and promotion. Public health educators can help promote and advocate for environmental conditions that support healthy lifestyles.