Development of a Childhood Obesogenic Environment Index

Creating an index to identify obesogenic communities in the US in order to make comparisons between urban and rural environments.
The prevalence of childhood obesity has increased exponentially over the past three decades, with rural children having greater odds of obesity compared to their urban counterparts, and rural Southern and minority children at greatest risk. Environment-level factors affecting these behaviors are increasingly recognized as critical to understanding the expanding obesity crisis and urban-rural obesity disparities. Understanding how obesogenic environment elements differ between rural and urban environments and how these environmental factors subsequently affect residents’ healthy eating and physical activity behaviors is crucial for addressing risk factors for childhood obesity in rural communities.

The goals of this project include:

  • Developing an obesogenic environment index score for all U.S. counties and census tracts
  • Exploring urban versus rural differences in obesogenic environment scores
  • Examining associations between obesogenic environments and childhood obesity overall and by level of rurality

For intial project findings, including a map of the childhood obesogenic environment index score by county across the US, please see our Policy Brief.

For additional findings on the nutrition and physical activity environments across the US, please see our poster presented at the 2020 Active Living Conference and our paper published in International Journal of Environmental Health Research. 


This project is funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy as part of the Rural Health Research Grant Cooperative Agreement.

More information

For more information about the Development of a Childhood Obesogenic Environment Index, feel free to contact us:

Andrew Kaczynski, PhD
University of South Carolina

Ellen Stowe, MPH
University of South Carolina

Marilyn Wende, MSPH
University of South Carolina