Do Neighborhoods Matter? A Systematic Review of Modifiable Risk Factors for Obesity among Low Socio-Economic Status Black and Hispanic Children

Katherine Abowd Johnson, Nakiya N. Showell, Sarah Flessa, Melissa Janssen, Natalie Reid, Lawrence J. Cheskin, Rachel L.J. Thornton

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Background: Childhood obesity increases the risk of obesity and harmful comorbidities later in life. It is influenced by characteristics of a child's neighborhood, particularly among underserved groups. Our objective was to systematically review the evidence relating neighborhood environment and obesity risk among urban, low socioeconomic status (SES) Black and Hispanic children. Methods: We included studies published from 1993 through early 2017 from PubMed, SCOPUS, Web of Science, and Sociological Abstracts databases investigating relationships between empirically measured neighborhood characteristics and obesity risk factors in the populations of interest. Databases were last searched on May 8, 2018. Initial analysis took place during 2014 and was completed during 2017. We extracted data on study population, design, and associations between neighborhood characteristics and obesity risk factors. Results: We identified 2011 unique studies; 24 were included. Few studies demonstrated consistent patterns of association. Most neighborhood characteristics were not examined across multiple studies. BMI may be related to living in a lower-income neighborhood or convenience store access. Conclusions: This review found that the body of evidence relating neighborhood exposures and obesity risk factors among urban, low SES Black (also commonly referred to in the literature as "non-Hispanic Black" or African American) and Hispanic children is limited. Given the high risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease among these populations throughout the life course, research on neighborhood determinants of obesity should specifically include these populations, ensuring adequate power and methodological rigor to detect differences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-86
Number of pages16
JournalChildhood Obesity
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019


  • African American
  • Hispanic
  • childhood obesity
  • neighborhood
  • social determinants of health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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