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Targeting the spatial context of obesogenic disparities

Taylor Oshan, Geographical Sciences, is examining the spatial context of obesity rate determinants in the U.S.

Obesity rates are at epidemic proportions throughout much of the world (WHO, 2003). However, rates vary greatly across spatial contexts and different socio-demographic groups, taking a particularly disproportionate toll on low-income individuals and racial/ethnic minority populations (NCHS, 2017). Beyond individual health consequences, such as hypertension and heart disease, obesity inflates the price of healthcare - treating the array of otherwise preventable diseases and health conditions associated with obesity results in annual expenditures in the hundreds of billions of dollars (Wang et al., 2011; Cawley, 2015; Cawley, 2016). Furthermore, the rate of obesity continues to increase despite attempts at intervention and prevention, resulting in concomitant increases in projected healthcare costs. Therefore, the global obesity epidemic poses significant threats to the health and financial security of the population.

The overall goal of this project is to refine and expand efforts to model the spatial context of obesity rate determinants in the United States to develop strategies to better contain and mitigate the obesity crisis. Specific research directions are twofold: (1) expand previous applied modeling efforts to understand the spatial context of obesogenic processes across the US over time; (2) improve spatial statistical models to better incorporate uncertainty and sampling error. Pursuing both directions enable comprehensive improvements over the stateof- the-art ability to capture the spatial context of health outcomes and potentially formulate policy recommendations.

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