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Schwartz paper on neighborhoods schools and obesity published in PLOS ONE

Jun 15, 2016

Neighborhoods, Schools and Obesity: The Potential for Place-Based Approaches to Reduce Childhood Obesity

Brian Elbel, Sean P. Corcoran, Amy Ellen Schwartz

PLOS ONE, June 2016

Amy Ellen Schwartz

Amy Ellen Schwartz

A common policy approach to reducing childhood obesity aims to shape the environment in which children spend most of their time: neighborhoods and schools. This paper uses richly detailed data on the body mass index (BMI) of all New York City public school students in grades K-8 to assess the potential for place-based approaches to reduce child obesity.

The authors document variation in the prevalence of obesity across NYC public schools and census tracts, and then estimate the extent to which this variation can be explained by differences in individual-level predictors (such as race and household income). Both unadjusted and adjusted variability across neighborhoods and schools suggest place-based policies have the potential to meaningfully reduce child obesity, but under most realistic scenarios the improvement would be modest.