Characterizing the obesogenic environment: the state of the evidence with directions for future research

Authors

  • S. F. L. Kirk,

    Corresponding author
    1. Applied Research Collaborations for Health, School of Health Administration, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, Canada;
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  • T. L. Penney,

    1. Applied Research Collaborations for Health, School of Health Administration, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, Canada;
    2. IWK Health Centre, Halifax, NS, Canada;
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  • T.-L. F. McHugh

    1. Applied Research Collaborations for Health, School of Health Administration, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, Canada;
    2. Atlantic Health Promotion Research Centre, Halifax, NS, Canada
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Dr SFL Kirk, Canada Research Chair in Health Services Research, Applied Research Collaborations for Health (ARCH), School of Health Administration, Dalhousie University, 1318 Robie Street, Halifax, NS, Canada B3H 3E2. E-mail: sara.kirk@dal.ca

Summary

Despite the explosion of obesogenic environment research within the last decade, consensus on what constitutes the very environment we are trying to measure has not yet been reached. This presents a major challenge towards our understanding of environmental research for obesity, and the development of a desperately needed contextualized evidence base to support action and policies for curbing this epidemic. Specifically, we lack the application of a cohesive definition or framework, which creates the potential for confusion regarding the role of the environment, misinterpretation of research findings and missed opportunities with respect to possible avenues for environmentally based interventions. This scoping review identified primary studies and relevant reviews examining factors related to body mass index, diet and/or physical activity with respect to the obesogenic environment. Using a comprehensive framework for conceptualizing the obesogenic environment, the Analysis Grid for Environments Linked to Obesity (ANGELO), we identified 146 primary studies, published between January 1985 and January 2008, that could be characterized according to the dimensions of ANGELO. Gaps in the literature were clearly identified at the level of the macro-environment, and the political and economic micro-environments, highlighting key areas where further research is warranted if we are to more fully understand the role of the obesogenic environment.

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