There is an awareness that neighborhood factors are important to addressing high rates of childhood obesity. By studying the Razorback Greenway trail system in Northwest Arkansas, we were able to show that children living near trails were at lower risk of developing obesity. This was particularly true for lower-income and minority children. The study examined childhood body mass index (BMI) before, during, and after the trails were implemented and used falsification tests to rule out the possibility that the beneficial effects of trails simply reflected residential sorting among those at lower-risk of developing obesity into neighborhoods with trails. At present, the Center is working to gain additional insights on the built environment from an evaluation of the Little Rock Green Schoolyards Initiative. This involves a partnership between the Little Rock School District, the City of Little Rock, and the Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health. Its mission is to positively impact the lives and health of students, staff, and families of schools by providing additional outdoor places for learning, playing, and engaging the community. Finally, Center researchers have focused on food retail stores surrounding residences and neighborhood schools and their role in excess childhood weight gain. Recent peer-reviewed studies on the built environment include the following:
Dunn RA, Nayga Jr RM, Thomsen MR, Rouse HL. A longitudinal analysis of fast-food exposure on child weight outcomes: Identifying causality through school transitions. Q open. 2021;1(1):qoaa007-. DOI: 10.1093/qopen/qoaa007
Kim B, Thomsen MR, Nayga RM, Fang D, Goudie A. Move more, gain less: Effect of a recreational trail system on childhood BMI. Contemporary economic policy. 2020;38(2):270-88. DOI: 10.1111/coep.12448, PMCID: PMC7074062.
Asirvatham J, Thomsen M, Nayga Jr RM, Goudie A. Do fast food restaurants surrounding schools affect childhood obesity? Economics & human biology. 2019;33:124-33. DOI: 10.1016/j.ehb.2019.01.011 9, PMCID: PMC6584617.
Zeng D, Thomsen MR, Nayga RM, Bennett JL. Supermarket access and childhood bodyweight: Evidence from store openings and closings. Economics & human biology. 2019;33:78-88. DOI: 10.1016/j.ehb.2019.01.004.