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Reversing the Obesogenic Environment

Reversing the Obesogenic Environment


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    Obesity has become a global crisis. Although most would agree that eating better and being more physically active are the answer to the problem, researchers have recently become aware that the problem goes beyond just changing individual behaviors. We can convince people of the benefits of healthful eating and regular physical activity, but what happens when they go home to a neighborhood where fresh vegetables are not available and opportunities for physical activity are hard to find? If the environment doesn’t help support healthy lifestyles, the change will be next to impossible to sustain. In Reversing the Obesogenic Environment, leading researchers Lee, McAlexander, and Banda introduce the concept of the obesogenic environment—an environment that leads people to become obese—and explore ways that changing our environment can encourage healthier choices.

    Although most of the current literature focuses on the food supply and dietary habits, Reversing the Obesogenic Environment takes a broader view of the current obesity problem. It looks at all of the elements that combine to create the obesogenic environment:
    • The ways that the built environment, access to resources, and active transportation systems can either foster or discourage regular physical activity
    • The multiple factors that encourage consumption of calorie-laden, nutritionally inadequate foods that can lead to obesity
    • The positive and negative impact of public policy
    • The influence of family, culture, socioeconomic status, and other social factors on an individual’s health behaviors as well as access to physical activity opportunities and healthier food options
    • The role that media and marketing play in food purchasing decisions

    With Reversing the Obesogenic Environment, readers will get a cutting-edge view of this emerging body of research with applications that can be realistically implemented in their communities. The book goes beyond defining the issues that contribute to the obesity epidemic—it offers tools that will help practitioners start to reverse it. Throughout the book, the authors incorporate practical recommendations based on the latest research. Sample programs and policies, checklists, and potential solutions offer readers a starting point for changes in their own communities.

    The obesity epidemic is a multifaceted issue influenced by factors ranging from international trade and national policy to individual behaviors. Reversing the problem will take coordinated multilevel efforts. These efforts may take years to come to fruition, but it isn’t too late to take action. Reversing the Obesogenic Environment is the ideal guide to taking the first steps toward change.

    Reversing the Obesogenic Environment is part of the Physical Activity Intervention Series (PAIS). This timely series provides educational resources for professionals interested in promoting and implementing physical activity and health promotion programs to a diverse and often-resistant population.


    A reference for public health officials, epidemiologists, health and fitness professionals, or others interested in the environmental factors contributing to obesity; also a textbook for upper-level undergraduate or graduate courses in health promotion, public health, epidemiology, wellness, or obesity.

    Table of Contents

    Part I: Public Health and Obesity
    Chapter 1: Emergence of the Obesogenic Environment
    Chapter 2: Scope of Obesity
    Chapter 3: Body Composition Measurements

    Part II: Physical Activity and Obesity
    Chapter 4: The Built Environment
    Chapter 5: Physical Activity Resources
    Chapter 6: Active Transportation

    Part III: Food Accessibility
    Chapter 7: Food Supply and Security
    Chapter 8: Food Technology

    Part IV: Public Policy, Sociocultural Influences, and Obesity
    Chapter 9: Policy and Individual Health Choices
    Chapter 10: Policy and the Obesogenic Environment
    Chapter 11: Cultural and Familial Influences
    Chapter 12: Social Justice, Health Disparities, and Obesity

    Part V: Media and Marketing
    Chapter 13: Point of Purchase
    Chapter 14: Influence of Media and Technology

    About the Author

    Rebecca E. Lee, PhD, is the founding director of the Texas Obesity Research Center at the University of Houston. Lee is also an associate professor in the department of health and human performance at the University of Houston and holds a courtesy appointment at the University of Texas School of Public Health. She is a community health psychologist who has been principal investigator for numerous federally and privately funded research grants. Her studies have focused on interventions for populations of color, specifically interventions that incorporate social cohesion, ameliorate social injustices, and improve the quality of the neighborhood environment.

    Lee serves on the editorial boards of the International Journal of Women’s Health, the American Journal of Health Promotion, and Health Psychology. She has served as a charter member of the community-level health promotion study section of the Center for Scientific Review at the National Institutes of Health and a member and former chair of the Mayor’s Wellness Council Public Policy Committee, which works to improve the health of Houstonians.

    Dr. Lee is a fellow of the Society of Behavioral Medicine. She is a member of the Obesity Society and the International Society for Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. She received the University of Houston College of Education Research Excellence Award in 2005 and 2008, and she has been recognized by the National Institutes of Health as a National Health Disparities Scholar. In 2009, her Saving Lives, Staying Active (SALSA) program was given the Outstanding Achievement for a Community Program Award by the Texas Council on Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke

    Kristen M. McAlexander, PhD, is a lecturer in the department of applied physiology and wellness at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Dr. McAlexander’s research interests include environmental and sociocultural influences of wellness behaviors and obesity, particularly among vulnerable populations such as women and low socioeconomic populations. McAlexander is also president and founder of Reflections Wellness, a local nonprofit organization designed to promote wellness while fighting local poverty and eliminating health disparities. Her research and nonprofit organization focus on understanding and reducing health disparities and improving wellness opportunities among underserved neighborhoods.

    McAlexander received a graduate research award and two graduate fellowships from the University of Houston department of health and human performance. McAlexander is an American Council on Exercise (ACE) certified personal trainer and a member of the Society for Behavioral Medicine, the American College of Sports Medicine, and the Urban Affairs Association.

    Jorge A. Banda, MS, is a PhD candidate in the department of exercise science at the University of South Carolina in Columbia and a research assistant at the university’s Prevention Research Center. Banda holds a master’s degree in exercise science from the University of Houston. His research has focused primarily on underserved populations, including low-income-housing residents, African-American and Latina women, and low-income rural communities.

    Banda received a Prevention Research Center Minority Health fellowship from the Association of Schools of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, aand the Charles Coker Fellowship from the University of South Carolina. He was twice awarded a Norman Arnold School of Public Health fellowship. Banda also attended the Built Environment Assessment Training Institute sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, San Diego State University, and the University of Pennsylvania. He is a member of the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Public Health Association.