Role of the Physical Environment in Obesity, A Lecture by Dr. Yanhong Jin, Ph.D., March 5, 2014

Dr. Yanhong Jin

Dr. Yanhong Jin, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics, Rutgers University


Dr. Jin’s research involves the role of the Physical Environment on the rates of obesity in the United States.

The Physical Environment is defined as our current structured environment where people (adults and children) live, eat, play, shop, work, and attend school. Therefore, the Physical Environment includes the Neighborhood food environment, Neighborhood parks and playgrounds, Neighborhood walkability, Neighborhood public transportation, and Neighborhood safety. The Physical Environment, in most cases, cannot be altered unless the individual and family move to a new location.

Dr. Jin discussed the most recent data on obesity in children and presented this slide:

Facts about Childhod Obesity - Dr. Jin

Dr. Jin discussed her own research on the role of neighborhood parks on obesity in children. Her published article can be found at:

Y Jin Parks Title Aug 2013
Dr. Jin used the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) to determine what effects the presence of a neighborhood park had on the obesity rate of children. Dr. Jin and her co-author found that the effects of a park/playground on childhood obesity was dependent upon the gender, age, race, household income level, neighborhood safety, and other neighborhood amenities. Of high importance was the safety of the neighborhood.
The following received more benefit from a safe neighborhood park:
1. The benefit was greater in girls than boys
2. The benefit was greater in the age 10 – 13 group
3. Non-Hispanic white youth benefited more than other groups
4. Children in unsafe neighborhoods benefited more

The take home message from Dr. Jin’s lecture was that we need to consider the environment people live in when strategies to combat the obesity epidemic are developed.

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