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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14(11), 1426; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14111426

Relationships between Vacant Homes and Food Swamps: A Longitudinal Study of an Urban Food Environment

1
Center for Human Nutrition, Department of International Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 615 N. Wolfe Street, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA
2
Department of Health Services & Nutritional Sciences Program, School of Public Health, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA
3
Center for Child and Community Health Research, Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA
4
Department of Health Policy and Management, Institute for Health and Social Policy, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA
5
Global Obesity Prevention Center (GOPC) at Johns Hopkins University, 615 N. Wolfe Street, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 30 June 2017 / Revised: 7 November 2017 / Accepted: 7 November 2017 / Published: 21 November 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Environment, Diet, and Health)
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Abstract

Research indicates that living in neighborhoods with high concentrations of boarded-up vacant homes is associated with premature mortality due to cancer and diabetes, but the mechanism for this relationship is unclear. Boarded-up housing may indirectly impact residents’ health by affecting their food environment. We evaluated the association between changes in vacancy rates and changes in the density of unhealthy food outlets as a proportion of all food outlets, termed the food swamp index, in Baltimore, MD (USA) from 2001 to 2012, using neighborhood fixed-effects linear regression models. Over the study period, the average food swamp index increased from 93.5 to 95.3 percentage points across all neighborhoods. Among non-African American neighborhoods, increases in the vacancy rate were associated with statistically significant decreases in the food swamp index (b = −0.38; 90% CI, −0.64 to −0.12; p-value: 0.015), after accounting for changes in neighborhood SES, racial diversity, and population size. A positive association was found among low-SES neighborhoods (b = 0.15; 90% CI, 0.037 to 0.27; p-value: 0.031). Vacant homes may influence the composition of food outlets in urban neighborhoods. Future research should further elucidate the mechanisms by which more distal, contextual factors, such as boarded-up vacant homes, may affect food choices and diet-related health outcomes. View Full-Text
Keywords: food swamp; food environment; neighborhood; food store; vacant home; African American; low-SES food swamp; food environment; neighborhood; food store; vacant home; African American; low-SES
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Mui, Y.; Jones-Smith, J.C.; Thornton, R.L.J.; Pollack Porter, K.; Gittelsohn, J. Relationships between Vacant Homes and Food Swamps: A Longitudinal Study of an Urban Food Environment. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14, 1426.

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