Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A special issue of Obesity Reviews on research into contextual correlates of obesogenic behaviour

Obesity is a main determinants of avoidable burden of disease. Obesity is importantly influenced by eating and physical (in-)activity behaviours. It has been posited that these unhealthy lifestyle behaviours are a normal response to environmental characteristics that may influence an individual's level of physical activity -such as lack of opportunities for being active- and dietary behaviours  -such as too ample opportunities to eat high sugar and fat foods-. Certain environments are thus more ‘obesogenic’ than others – more likely to promote and facilitate unhealthy behaviours, and higher likelihood to become and maintain overweight and obese. Changing the environment may thus offer opportunities to help reduce the obesity epidemic.

In a special issue just published in the journal Obesity Reviews, -introduced by Dr. Jeroen Lakerveld and others-, we present a number of publications that we were able to prepare based on the European Commission-funded SPOTLIGHT project (derived from ‘sustainable prevention of obesity through integrated strategies’).

In this special issue we report on methodological papers, such as pioneering work on assessing self-defined neighbourhood boundaries, providing insights into the neighbourhood limits and size as perceived by study respondents. Additionally Feuillet and colleagues describe a novel way to ascribe neighbourhoods to one of four possible types based on the obesogenic characteristics. The mismatch between perceived and objectively measured environmental obesogenic features is described in the paper by Roda and colleagues, and Mackenbach and colleagues report that  people living in less-well-off neighbourhoods perceive their living quarters as more obesogenic than others. Furthermore, findings of environmental correlates of cycling for transport are reported, and how sleep and sedentary behaviour are associated, as well as a number of other findings.

Educational differences in the validity of self-reported physical activity

The assessment of physical activity for surveillance or population based studies is usually done with self-report questionnaires. We studied if the validity of a much used self-reported physical activity questionnaire -the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) was different according to the level of education of the respondents.
In a paper just published in BMC public health, we compared physical activity as assessed with IPAQ to physical activity assessed with accelerometers (i.e. an objective measure of physical activity) and analysed if the results of these two measurements were better associated in higher than in lower educated people. This was indeed the case. The validity of IPAQ was moderate at best among higher educated respondents, but very poor among lower educated respondents. Our results suggest that questionnaires such as IPAQ should not be used among the lower educated.