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Article Review: Impact of Neighborhood Environment on Obesity

The article “Why the neighborhood social environment is critical in obesity prevention,” focuses on how the neighborhood social environ, mainly, societal resources and collective worth is linked to obesity and as such its prevention. The term neighborhood describes spaces such as parks, footpaths, bicycle trails, eating places, auditoriums, workplaces, among other entities that are located within walking distance. In the past three decades, the prevalence of obesity in the USA has gone up dramatically. Severally factors, both individual and contextual, have contributed to the increase in obesity. Neighborhood environment illustrates some of the most common contextual aspects, both physical and social, that directly or indirectly influence obesity levels. The article asserts the different dimensions associated with each neighborhood have evident relevance to obesity prevalence.

According to the authors, over the past two decades, extensive research has been conducted on the relationship between the neighborhood environment and obesity. Indeed, research has focused on various factors that increase the risk and prevalence of obesity, such as a higher quantity of fast-food restaurants and low walk-able distances (Suglia, Shelton, and Hsiao 207). However, many studies have ignored the impact of the social neighborhood environment and its role in managing and preventing obesity. The article describes the neighborhood social environment as concepts of social resources, collective ability, poverty, segregation, social cohesion, and crime (Suglia, Shelton and Hsiao 207). The authors further identify distinct aspects such as nutritional conducts and psychological health as some of the facilitating factors. Therefore, the neighborhood social environment encompasses the socio-demographic composition of a particular neighborhood and its inhabitants in addition to the interaction, and social practices that exist between and amongst the folks in the area.

The article is essential since it relies on prevailing evidence on the relationship between neighborhood environment and obesity to illustrate how concentrating on the neighborhood social environment might be useful in efforts of managing and preventing obesity. For instance, the authors point out that promoting a built environment, for example, through utilizing parks and entertainment facilitates is likely to increase interactions among the neighbors if there are coupled with interventions that are aimed to reduce crime while increasing the sense of security (Suglia, Shelton and Hsiao 208). Such efforts promote social cohesion and collective efficacy. Additionally, other interventions might encompass the development of safe routes, as such fostering walking and bicycling for school-going children. Essentially, the authors pinpoint the importance of improving social conditions in efforts of encouraging physical activity and other constructive health consequences.

The article is grounded on the concept that since certain aspects of a neighborhood in one way or another might increase the risk and prevalence of obesity, specific interventions might be taken to prevent and reduce obesity. For instance, the research reference how previous research indicate neighborhood poverty increases obesity (Suglia, Shelton, and Hsiao 208). Indeed, neighborhoods with inadequate societal-level administration economic funds have lower resources dedicated to the built environment, comprising poor recreational facilitates, limited access to parks which might contribute to obesity. Similarly, poor neighborhoods correlate with poor social settings such as higher crime rates, poor social interrelation, and social wealth in addition to higher chances of residential segregation, which are likely to increase obesity. However, the paper contends the influence of poverty on obesity can be managed through reducing its impact on additional social features of the neighborhood social environment, including the management of delinquency, social interconnection, and residential discrimination.

Apart from poverty, lack of security is associated with higher levels of obesity. Research indicates unsafe neighborhood discourage physical activities among both children and adults. The article maintains neighborhood welfare and crime impacts social systems and structure, which reduces social cohesion, limiting opportunities of social interactions (Suglia, Shelton and Hsiao 209). The paper argues it is essential for the neighborhoods to emphasize the importance of social cohesion since it encourages collective efficacy as such, facilitating more opportunities to model healthy behavior in a supportive community. Moreover, the paper contends that social ties are essential in influencing healthy eating and physical activities by providing social support and social norms grounded on healthy living. Undeniably, social norms such as beliefs on the importance of physical activities or certain foods might be vital in managing and preventing obesity (Suglia, Shelton and Hsiao 210). Essentially, the paper argues social constructs influence interaction and processes in the neighborhood which if managed effectively are likely to reduce cases of obesity and therefore, the prevalence rates.

The authors consider the entire USA society as the audience, including and not limited to adults, young adults, parents, teachers, policymakers, and the community as a whole. The writers pinpoint that the USA can outgrow that current levels of obesity if individuals concentrate on cultivating social conditions. The improvement of social circumstances is the responsibility of each individual from municipal organizations, business relations, civic assemblages, parents, teachers, and other members of the community. The improvement of social conditions is a way of encouraging physical activities and healthy eating in addition to fostering different health outcomes. Indeed, the authors adopt a persuasive tone in their discussion of strategies intended to improve neighborhood social environments. The fact that the improvement efforts are primarily multi-faceted approaches implies that the article is designed for the entire society. The relationship between the authors and the audience borders between educational and advisory. Undeniably, the report is informative since its makes assertions grounded on previous research on the impact of neighborhood environment on obesity while making suggestions on how the improvements in social conditions are likely to prevent obesity.

Unlike a multitude of research on the influence of neighborhood environment on obesity, the article focuses on the role of the social environment in preventing obesity. The paper proceeds to give an insightful description of what is constitutes the neighborhood social environment and how it relates to obesity. The article approach to the association between the neighborhood and obesity is not only insightful but also implores an approach that was yet to be explored in the extensive literature on the social issue that is obesity. Additionally, the emphasis on the multi-faceted approach to managing and preventing obesity is informative since many fail to realize the risk factors of obesity extend beyond personal factors to encompass contextual factors including the prevailing social conditions of a particular neighborhood (Suglia, Shelton and Hsiao 209). The article identified not only the actual but also the perceived factors of the neighbor social environment that influences health behaviors and subsequently, the obesity status. The authors lay the same emphasis on the neighborhood social environment as the neighborhood built environment since the paper identifies both aspects of the neighborhood environment as equally important.

The most appealing argument of the article is the focus on future research directions. As mentioned, unlike other aspects of the neighborhood environment that have been extensively analyzed, the neighborhood social environment remains behind. The authors suggest that future research should concentrate on the impact of the neighborhood social environment on the under-researched activities associated with obesity. Additionally, the article highlights the importance of considering life stages since the neighborhood environment is a factor that is experienced throughout the life course of an individual since it is vital to acknowledge which age groups are particularly vulnerable to obesity and why. Similarly, it is necessary for gender differences to be considered in the research of the neighborhood social environment. Indeed, the article suggestions on future research are fundamental in devising the most appropriate interventions in the USA efforts of managing and preventing obesity.

Work Cited

Suglia, Shakira F, et al. “Why Neighborhood Social Environment is Critical in Obesity Prevention.” Journalof Urban Health vol. 93, no.1 (2016): pp. 206-212.


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