This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Socioeconomic Disparities, Community Physical Environment, and Childhood Obesity in Alabama's Black Belt Region




Carter, William

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Geology and Geography


Health inequalities have been linked to socioeconomic disparities. These disparities are communal differences which have a profound influence on the physical environment. Scholarship has recently connected socioeconomic disparities with obesity, a current epidemic in many nations that disproportionately affects those from racial and ethnic minority groups as well as those from a lower socioeconomic status. The issue is particularly important in the Black Belt region of the rural South, where counties are characterized by high percentages of African American population and prominent rates of poverty. Community physical environments can influence obesity rates through two components, the food environment and the physical activity environment. Both of these have an equally important impact on the health of a community, as the former describes energy intake while the latter describes energy expenditure. This research aims to focus on an understudied population, children from rural Black Belt counties, in order to evaluate obesity rates in relation to the surrounding physical environment. 664 children from five elementary schools in two Black Belt counties were analyzed to more comprehensively understand obesity among children in the rural Black Belt. This was accomplished through the use of mixed methods, quantitative measurements acquired through GIS techniques and statistical analysis and qualitative measures derived from survey questionnaires and spatial video recordings of the physical environment.