Measuring the food environment using geographical information systems: a methodological review.

UMR INSERM U 557/INRA U 1125/CNAM, University Paris 13, CRNH IdF, Bobigny, France.
Public Health Nutrition (Impact Factor: 2.48). 11/2010; 13(11):1773-85. DOI: 10.1017/S1368980010000753
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Through a literature review, we investigated the geographic information systems (GIS) methods used to define the food environment and the types of spatial measurements they generate.
Review study.
Searches were conducted in health science databases, including Medline/Pubmed, PsycINFO, Francis and GeoBase. We included studies using GIS-based measures of the food environment published up to 1 June 2008.
Twenty-nine papers were included. Two different spatial approaches were identified. The density approach quantifies the availability of food outlets using the buffer method, kernel density estimation or spatial clustering. The proximity approach assesses the distance to food outlets by measuring distances or travel times. GIS network analysis tools enable the modelling of travel time between referent addresses (home) and food outlets for a given transportation network and mode, and the assumption of travel routing behaviours. Numerous studies combined both approaches to compare food outlet spatial accessibility between different types of neighbourhoods or to investigate relationships between characteristics of the food environment and individual food behaviour.
GIS methods provide new approaches for assessing the food environment by modelling spatial accessibility to food outlets. On the basis of the available literature, it appears that only some GIS methods have been used, while other GIS methods combining availability and proximity, such as spatial interaction models, have not yet been applied to this field. Future research would also benefit from a combination of GIS methods with survey approaches to describe both spatial and social food outlet accessibility as important determinants of individual food behaviours.

1 Follower
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Background Current UK policy in relation to the influence of the `food environment¿ on childhood obesity appears to be driven largely on assumptions or speculations because empirical evidence is lacking and findings from studies are inconsistent. The aim of this study was to investigate the number of food outlets and the proximity of food outlets in the same sample of children, without solely focusing on fast food.Methods Cross sectional study over 3 years (n¿=¿13,291 data aggregated). Body mass index (BMI) was calculated for each participant, overweight and obesity were defined as having a BMI >85th (sBMI 1.04) and 95th (sBMI 1.64) percentiles respectively (UK90 growth charts)). Home and school neighbourhoods were defined as circular buffers with a 2km Euclidean radius, centred on these locations. Commuting routes were calculated using the shortest straight line distance, with a 2km buffer to capture varying routes. Data on food outlet locations was sourced from Leeds City Council covering the study area and mapped against postcode. Food outlets were categorised into three groups, supermarkets, takeaway and retail. Proximity to the nearest food outlet in the home and school environmental domain was also investigated. Age, gender, ethnicity and deprivation (IDACI) were included as covariates in all models.ResultsThere is no evidence of an association between the number of food outlets and childhood obesity in any of these environments; Home Q4 vs. Q1 OR¿=¿1.11 (95%CI =0.95-1.30); School Q4 vs. Q1 OR¿=¿1.00 (95%CI 0.87 ¿ 1.16); commute Q4 vs. Q1 OR¿=¿0.1.00 (95%CI 0.83-1.20). Similarly there is no evidence of an association between the proximity to the nearest food outlet and childhood obesity in the home (OR¿=¿0.77 [95%CI =0.61 ¿ 0.98]) or the school (OR =1.01 [95%CI 0.84 ¿ 1.23]) environment.Conclusions This study provides little support for the notion that exposure to food outlets in the home, school and commuting neighbourhoods increase the risk of obesity in children. It seems that the evidence is not well placed to support Governmental interventions / recommendations currently being proposed and that policy makers should approach policies designed to limit food outlets with caution.
    International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 12/2014; 11(1):138. DOI:10.1186/s12966-014-0138-4 · 3.68 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: As public and private resources are increasingly being directed towards the elimination of food deserts in urban areas, proper measurement of food access is essential. Amelioration has been approached through the use of farmers markets, virtual grocery stores, and corner store programs, but properly situating these assets in neighborhoods in need requires localized data on both the location and content of food outlets and the populations served. This paper examines the reliability of current techniques for identifying food deserts, and identifies some of the flaws in those approaches. Information derived from geographic information systems (GIS) mapping is the predominant means of determining food availability. In this study, food access in Bridgeport, CT, is examined utilizing both computer-based GIS mapping and on-the-ground observations. While the GIS output indicates generalized food accessibility issues, supplementation by survey data reduces the geographic extent of the food desert problem. Still, nearly 60,000 people (40 % of the population) reside in neighborhoods served only by small retailers who provide few healthy food options, and those at inflated prices. The high opportunity cost of travelling by bus to a major grocery store may outweigh the direct cost savings, and residents choose to consume locally available but unhealthy foods.
    Agriculture and Human Values 12/2014; 31(4):537-547. DOI:10.1007/s10460-014-9501-y · 1.36 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: A lack of physical activity and overconsumption of energy dense food is associated with overweight and obesity. The neighbourhood environment may stimulate or hinder the development and/or maintenance of a healthy lifestyle. To improve research on the obesogenicity of neighbourhood environments, reliable, valid and convenient assessment methods of potential obesogenic characteristics of neighbourhood environments are needed. This study examines the reliability and validity of the SPOTLIGHT-Virtual Audit Tool (S-VAT), which uses remote sensing techniques (Street View feature in Google Earth) for desk-based assessment of environmental obesogenicity. A total of 128 street segments in four Dutch urban neighbourhoods - heterogeneous in socio-economic status and residential density - were assessed using the S-VAT. Environmental characteristics were categorised as walking related items, cycling related items, public transport, aesthetics, land use-mix, grocery stores, food outlets and physical activity facilities. To assess concordance of inter- and intra-observer reliability of the Street View feature in Google Earth, and validity scores with real life audits, percentage agreement and Cohen's Kappa (k) were calculated. Intra-observer reliability was high and ranged from 91.7% agreement (k = 0.654) to 100% agreement (k = 1.000) with an overall agreement of 96.4% (k = 0.848). Inter-observer reliability results ranged from substantial agreement 78.6% (k = 0.440) to high agreement, 99.2% (k = 0.579), with an overall agreement of 91.5% (k = 0.595). Criterion validity was substantial to high for most of the categories ranging from 87.3% agreement (k = 0.539) to 99.9% agreement (k = 0.887) with an overall score of 95.6% agreement (k = 0.747). These study results suggest that the S-VAT is a highly reliable and valid remote sensing tool to assess potential obesogenic environmental characteristics.
    International Journal of Health Geographics 12/2014; 13(1):52. DOI:10.1186/1476-072X-13-52 · 2.62 Impact Factor

Full-text (2 Sources)

Available from
May 16, 2014