Objective: We completed a study to determine how food insecurity, access to exercise opportunities, and county classification (rural or urban) impacted obesity rates in Ohio. We hypothesized that the county classification impacted obesity the most followed by food insecurity and access to exercise opportunities.
Methods: We obtained data on food insecurity, access to exercise opportunities, and obesity from County Health Rankings and county classification data from the United States Department of Agriculture Census. We analyzed correlations between obesity and food insecurity and obesity and access to exercise opportunities in both county types. We also analyzed changes in obesity rates in both county types during 2016 and 2022. Furthermore, we developed a regression model to measure how each factor contributes to obesity.
Results: Correlations between food insecurity and obesity were significant in both county types in 2022. However, the correlation between access to exercise opportunities and obesity was only significant in urban communities in 2022. In 2016, the correlation between food insecurity and obesity was not statistically significant in both county types. Similarly to 2022, the correlation between access to exercise opportunities and obesity was statistically significant. Overall, obesity significantly increased from 2016 and 2022 in both county types. This increase is despite significant decreases in food insecurity. However, this increase matches the fact that access to exercise opportunities decreased significantly from 2016 and 2022. Our linear regression model showed that in 2022, food insecurity and access to exercise opportunities were significant predictors of obesity. In 2016, however, only food insecurity was a significant predictor of obesity.
Conclusion: The results of our study highlight how county classification, food insecurity, and access to exercise opportunities contribute to obesity in Ohio. Interestingly, these factors only contribute to 27% of current obesity rates, indicating that there are various contributing factors. Regardless, targeting these factors through healthcare intervention and policy can still alleviate a large contributor to obesity rates.
Parekh, A., & Lee, D. (2023). Comparing the Impact of Food Insecurity, Access to Exercise Opportunities, and County Classification on Obesity Rates in Ohio. Wright State University. Dayton, Ohio.