Food environments: do neighbourhoods matter?

Dr Lukar Thornton1

1Deakin University, Burwood, Australia


Studies investigating associations between the presence of neighbourhood food stores and food behaviours are premised on the assumption that if a feature is available locally, people will use it. However, this assumption does not consider that many people are exposed to multiple contexts on a daily basis; that residents have a different propensity and ability to access features within their neighbourhood; and that the new age of food purchasing via digital technology reduces the need to physically interact with the environment to purchase food. This abstract will present findings from a number of ongoing projects exploring how individuals use neighbourhoods for food purchasing.


Dr Thornton is a Senior Lecturer at Deakin University, Australia. His expertise spans the disciplines of health geography, epidemiology and public health. Dr Thornton’s current program of research predominantly explores associations between neighbourhood environments and health behaviours.

Geographies of walking: Examining how qualities of place correlate with users’ perceptions and levels of walking

Ms Tamara Bozovic1, Professor Erica  Hinckson1, Associate Professor Melody Smith nee Oliver2, Dr Moushumi Chaudhury1

1Auckland University Of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand

2The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand


The quality of the street environment is known to contribute to walkability but consensus on the nature of the deterrents remains elusive. We analysed Auckland Transport Active Modes 2016-18 survey data (ATAM, N=4,114) for correlations (Chi square test and Pearson’s coefficient) between perceived environmental characteristics and walking outcomes, within a Social Model of Walkability (SoMoW).

Results highlighted the importance of street quality for walking levels and satisfaction, overriding the availability of destinations, and informed aspects of the model. Important local potentials for walking were outlined: levels of walking are low, although 69% of able-bodied respondents who reported trips in the previous week saw walking as a reasonable alternative to car. Overall, 41% declared wanting to walk more. Quality of the street environment, including perceived barriers regarding safety and accessibility, was significantly associated with low levels of walking and low satisfaction with walking. Availability of destinations was not significantly correlated with low levels of walking and less strongly correlated with satisfaction than the examined elements of quality.

These findings contribute to health geography by providing new knowledge into ways how streets environments contribute to walking. They also provide decision support for design and retrofit.


Tamara Bozovic is a transport planner interested in ways urban transport systems contribute to liveability, inclusion, walking and health. Her focus and experience (Switzerland, Argentina, New Zealand) are on a systems approach for the retrofit of urban environments. She works on a PhD thesis examining through international and local evidence how the quality of streets environments contributes to difficulties of walking. The aim is to develop and inform a Social Model of Walkability and provide feedback to the practice (Auckland University of Technology, supervisors: Professor Erica Hinckson, Associate Professor Melody Smith nee Oliver, and Dr Moushumi Chaudhury).

Using structural equation modelling to explore the pathways linking the neighbourhood built environment and child body size: a cross-sectional study

Mrs Victoria Egli1, Dr Matthew Hobbs2, Dr Jordan Carlson3, Dr Lisa Mackay4, Dr Niamh Donnellan1, Dr Caryn Zinn4, Dr Karen Villaneuva5, Associate Professor Melody Smith1

1The University Of Auckland, School of Nursing, New Zealand,

2The University of Cantebury, Christchurch, New Zealand,

3Center for Children’s Healthy Lifestyles & Nutrition, Children’s Mercy Kansas City, USA

4Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand,

5RMIT, Melbourne, Australia


Built environments have been shown to influence health behaviours and may specifically encourage children’s consumption of unhealthy food and drinks and inhibit physical activity. While intuitively appealing, evidence linking built environment factors to body size is inconsistent. Exploratory structural equation modelling (SEM) is therefore useful to understand the explanatory pathways linking neighbourhood built environments to child body size and to determine the most appropriate theoretical approach for use in the New Zealand context. The objectives are to first, assess associations between the physical activity and nutrition built environment with child body size, adjusting for the potential mediating influences of physical activity and diet. Second to use SEM to explore the most appropriate theoretical approach for use in future studies in New Zealand. Data from a cross-sectional study of 1029 children, residing in Auckland, New Zealand was used. Associations between built environment features and objectively measured body size, through the pathways of diet and physical activity, were investigated using structural equation modelling in Mplus v.8.0. Exploratory analysis is currently being conducted to determine if controlling for area-level deprivation and residential and retail density at different locations in the model will provide alternative results and result in improved model fit.


Victoria has a background in nursing and public health. Her PhD focused on neighbourhood built environments and their impact on child health outcomes. On the 1st of May she will take up a position as a postdoctoral research fellow in the School of Nursing, at the University of Auckland continuing to research children’s neighbourhoods.

Mapping food purchase behaviour patterns in the State of Kuwait

Dr Saad Alsharrah1,2, Associate Professor  Neil Coffee2, Dr Dari Alhuwail1,3, Professor  Mark Daniel2

1Dasman Diabetes Institute

2University of Canberra

3Kuwait University


In the state of Kuwait, type 2 diabetes is a major public health concern with approximately 441,000 cases of diabetes for adults for an adult population of 2,922,000 (15.1%).  This alarming statistic reflects recent shifts in lifestyle behaviour including insufficient physical activity and unhealthful food choices. The primary commercial food outlet (market) in Kuwait is the Co-op society stores – government sponsored mega-supermarkets providing attractive prices and profit returns to consumers.  One advantage of this model is consumers hold memberships in their local Co-op, with food purchase data recorded for each member.  Utilising these rich data, this study applies a spatial lens to analyse food purchase data from Co-ops and evaluates categories of food purchases in relation to demographic features and the built environment, including accessibility to Co-ops.  This geospatial analytic approach provides the capacity to investigate household-level food purchase patterns as a key component of the relationships between social and built environmental factors and chronic diseases including diabetes.


Saad Alsharrah is a GIS Consultant at the Dasman Diabetes Institute and a Visiting Fellow at the University of Canberra.  His research interests include health, social and environmental applications of GIS.

Is physical activity higher among public transport or motor vehicle users in a regional setting?

Dr Verity Cleland1, Ms Bruna Ragaini1, Dr Melanie Sharman1, Dr Anna Lyth2, Mr Corey Peterson1, A/Prof Fay Johnston1, Prof Andrew Palmer1, Prof Leigh Blizzard1, Ms Julie Williams3, Ms Elaine Marshall3, Ms Megan Morse4, Dr Jagannath Aryal1, Dr Kim Jose1

1University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia,

2RED Sustainability Consultants, Hobart, Australia,

3Public Health Services, Tasmanian Department of Health, Hobart, Australia,

4Metro Tasmania, Hobart, Australia


Public transport (PT) users accumulate more physical activity (PA) than motor vehicle users, but most studies have been in metropolitan areas. This study aimed to establish whether public or private transport use is associated with higher PA in a regional city. Data were from an online survey (n=743) of Tasmanian adults during March-April 2017. PA outcomes were walking (min/week), total PA (min/week) and meeting PA guidelines; transport variables were weekly frequency of public and private transport use. Truncated (continuous variables) and log binomial (binary variables) regression were used to examine associations between public/private transport and PA. Frequency of public/private transport use was not associated with walking (PT: β -24.4, 95% CI: -110.7, 61.9; private transport: β -1.1, 95% CI: -72.4, 70.1), total PA (PT: β -90.8, 95% CI: -310.0, 128.5; private transport:  β 0.4, 95% CI: -134.0, 134.9) or meeting PA guidelines (PT: RR 1.00, 95% CI: 0.97, 1.02; private transport: RR 0.99, 95%CI: 0.98, 1.01). Findings suggest that the relationship between PA and transport behaviours in regional settings may differ to that observed in urban centres. This may be related to unique aspects of ‘place’ that impact both PA and PT use and requires further investigation in this context.


Dr Verity Cleland, PhD(Med Res) BAppSc(Health Promot)(Hons), is a behavioural epidemiologist and Heart Foundation-funded Future Leader Fellow. She leads a Physical Activity and Public Health Research Group and is interested in understanding how the built and policy environment impacts on physical activity behaviour, and whether changes to these environments can help support active lifestyles.

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