Summary: This paper describes the purpose and study design for the Watts Neighborhood Health Study. This study leverages a natural experiment created by the redevelopment of a public housing community to examine the impact of major improvements to the housing, built, and social environments on obesity among residents. Residents from the redeveloped community(treatment group) will be compared to those from a similar community (control group) in terms of their pre/post changes in primary outcomes using annual longitudinal data on a cohort of residents. This study offers a unique opportunity to assess whether improvements to housing, built, and social environment in low-income minority communities can lead to reductions in obesity.

Summary: In this paper, we compare the performance of alternate measures of diet and physical activity for predicting over-weight and obesity in a sample of low-income minority women. The goal is to assess whether measures based on approaches that are more time and resources-intensive add value over easy-to administer single-item measures in terms of their predictive utility for overweight and obesity. The models are built up starting with least resource-intensive measures of diet and physical activity (single items) and sequentially adding more resource intensive measures. The results indicate that single-item questions for diet and physical activity can provide valuable information about risk for overweight and obesity in this population.

Summary: The purpose of this study was to examine the variability in grocery shopping patterns, and the factors that predict them, among low-income minority women in public housing. Interviewer-administered surveys and body composition measurements were collected from an ongoing longitudinal cohort study of low-income urban public housing residents located in South Los Angeles. Grocery shopping patterns were associated with several participant characteristics, including race/ethnicity, working status, access to a car, income, and education. Hispanic participants were less likely to shop at a supermarket, travel further distances to shop, shop more frequently, and were more likely to prioritize price in their choice of primary grocery store than non-Hispanic Black women participants. Results indicate that, even within low-income, minority communities, there is considerable variation in households’ grocery shopping patterns, including the types of grocery stores accessed, distance travelled, frequency of shopping, and reasons behind grocery store choice, and that these patterns were associated with individual and household characteristics.

Summary: This study examines childhood obesity disparities on a micro-level within minority and low-income populations. We analyze data on 497 parent–child dyads living in public housing communities in Watts, Los Angeles. Cross-sectional multivariable linear and logistic regression models were estimated to examine whether individual and family level factors predict children’s BMI z-scores, overweight, and obesity in the sample overall and separately by child’s gender and age group. Parental BMI was the strongest and most consistent predictor of child zBMI, overweight, and obesity, even after controlling for parent’s diet and activity behaviors and home environment. The parenting practice of limiting children’s screen time was also protective of unhealthy BMI in younger children and females. Overall, our findings show that there is considerable heterogeneity in child BMI, overweight, and obesity even within low-income communities with similar socioeconomic and built environments in their neighborhoods.

Research Briefs

Papers Under Review/ Working Papers

  • Stakeholders’ Perspectives on the Jordan Downs Public Housing Redevelopment in Watts. Perrigo, J., PhD, LCSW1, Scott, J., MPA, BA2, Kim, K., BS3, Shier, V., PhD4, & Datar, A., PhD4. Affiliations: 1Luskin School of Public Affairs, University of California, Los Angeles, USA; 2Sol Price School of Public Policy, University of Southern California, USA; 3Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, USA; 4Center for Economic and Social Research, University of Southern California, USA