School connectedness and BMI among pre-adolescent students: The influence of neighborhood concentrated affluence
Methods. A cross-sectional health survey and objectively measured weight and height data were collected in the fall of 2009 among 5th and 6th grade students across 12 randomly selected schools in an urban New England school district. Participants (N=721) answered questions about dietary and exercise behaviors, social connections to their neighborhood and food security. Students' home addresses were geocoded and linked by tract identifiers to 2000 US Census data describing socio-demographic characteristics of students' residential neighborhoods. Students were also linked to school-level data that measured school connectedness and socio-demographic characteristics of schools. The associations of neighborhood SES, school-connectedness, and their interactions with individual student BMI percentiles were examined using a cross-classified random effects model.
Results. On average, the greater average connectedness felt by students at a particular school, the lower children's BMIs at that school are likely to be. Despite no direct association of neighborhood socioeconomic status with BMI percentile, this association between school connectedness and BMI is much stronger among children living in more affluent neighborhoods than among children from less affluent neighborhoods.
Conclusions. Results suggest that school connectedness is a possible strategy for child obesity prevention. However, inequalities in the affluence of students' neighborhoods also need to be addressed to maximize child health.
Learning Areas:Social and behavioral sciences
Describe prior studies comparing the neighborhood and school environments of schoolchildren and their influence on obesity or related behaviors. Describe study results: higher average school-level connectedness was associated with lower BMI; this association was stronger among students living in more affluent neighborhoods. Discuss ways these results could be used to design multi-contextual programs to prevent child obesity.
Keyword(s): School Health, Obesity
Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been a research associate at Community Alliance for Research and Engagement for two years, working on a school-based nutrition and physical activity intervention study aimed at reducing and preventing childhood obesity.
Any relevant financial relationships? No
I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.