The increasing prevalence of obesity in the United States has been linked to environmental factors that discourage physical activity and limit the availability of healthy foods. Most research on these phenomena has taken place in metropolitan areas, focusing on suburban sprawl on physical activity and the lack of supermarket access in impoverished urban areas. However, the high prevalence of obesity in rural areas highlights a need for research focused outside of major metropolitan regions. Whereas cities and suburbs are dominated by the built environment, the character of rural landscapes is molded by the natural environment, which influences the social and economic characteristics of rural communities and ultimately the health of rural populations. The overarching goal of this study is to test multiple working hypotheses about the environmental drivers of obesity, with an emphasis on non-metropolitan areas within the conterminous United States. This web visualization tool was developed to facilitate visualization and exploratory analysis of the various geospatial datasets that we used in our research.
This work is funded by a National Research Initiative grant (2008-35215-18814) from the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service. For more information about this project contact Dr. Michael C. Wimberly.