New Jersey Child Health and
New Jersey Childhood Obesity Studies
NJ Child Health Study (2012–2021)
Two longitudinal projects comprise the NJ Child Health Study. One follows a panel of low-income children in four NJ cities to study the impact of changes in the food and physical activity environment on changes in weight status and associated behaviors. The other follows a panel of 120 public schools in those four cities to study the role of changes in the environment on declines in obesity rates among school children. Findings from both studies will be posted here as they become available.
RECENTLY RELEASED FINDINGS ON BODY MASS INDEX AND WEIGHT STATUS
Strategies to improve the community food environment have been recommended for addressing childhood obesity, but evidence substantiating their effectiveness is limited. In this study, our aim was to examine the impact of changes in availability of key features of the community food environment, such as supermarkets, small grocery stores, convenience stores, upgraded convenience stores, pharmacies, and limited service restaurants, on changes in children’s body mass index z scores (zBMIs).
School food and physical activity (PA) environments can influence children’s dietary and physical activity behaviors. However, evidence on whether school environment is associated with students’ weight status is less definitive. In this study, we examined the association between students’ body mass index (BMI) and measures of school food and PA environments.
Trends in Obesity Rates among school children in Camden, Newark, Trenton, and New Brunswick, 2008 and 2015; based on nurse-measured heights and weights;
Funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NIH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the first project (2012–2019) is studying the impact of changes in the food and physical activity (PA) environments on childhood obesity and related behaviors in four New Jersey cities – Newark, Camden, Trenton, and New Brunswick. Panels of children are being followed through household surveys administered at two points in time to determine changes in their weight status and in food and PA behaviors. Major data collection on changes in the food and PA environment (geo-coded to each child’s residence) include: 1) analysis of commercial data bases for openings and closings of retail food outlets (e.g., convenience stores, supermarkets, fast-food and full service restaurants) and PA facilities (e.g., parks, playgrounds); 2) surveys of school nurses for changes in all public schools (e.g., food offerings, physical education requirements); and 3) review of public records and consultation with key informants to document enhancement of existing opportunities and other relevant changes (e.g., upgraded corner stores, basketball courts in parks, bike lanes, farmers’ markets).
The second project (2017–2021), funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI/NIH), is designed to identify alterable factors in the food and physical activity (PA) environment that contribute to declines in obesity rates among school children. The project focuses on all public schools in Newark, Trenton, Camden, and New Brunswick. The research follows 120 schools (30,000 students/year) over six years. Nurse-measured heights, weights, and demographic data on students are being collected. Schools are being surveyed to identify changes in food and PA environments in the schools (e.g., salad bars, drinking water in cafeterias, recess), and changes in the food and PA environment surrounding schools will be documented (e.g., new/renovated parks and trails, new food stores or PA facilities, upgraded corner stores). Changes will be geocoded to establish proximity to schools. The study is designed to provide critical evidence for developing tailored community and school interventions for reducing the burden of childhood obesity.
These studies are being conducted by collaborating researchers at Rutgers University and Arizona State University. For more information, please contact PI's Michael Yedidia, M.P.H., Ph.D., Research Professor or Punam Ohri-Vachaspati, Ph.D., R.D., Professor.
NJ Childhood Obesity Study (2008–2011)
Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Center for State Health Policy (CSHP) conducted the New Jersey Childhood Obesity Study in five cities: Camden, Newark, New Brunswick, Trenton, and Vineland. The research assessed the prevalence of childhood obesity in these communities and provided community specific information on contributing factors that can be addressed through policy and environmental change focused interventions. The main components of the study included: 1) a household survey of 1700 families with children; 2) height and weight data from public school districts; and 3) objective assessment of the food and physical activity environments.
For more information, please contact Michael Yedidia, M.P.H., Ph.D., Research Professor.
Data books based on the results from the study are posted below for each of the five study-cities. They were designed to provide critical information to help communities in planning, implementing and evaluating interventions to prevent childhood obesity. Please click on the links below to access these data books.