Exploring factors affecting individual GPS-based activity space and how researcher-defined food environments represent activity space, exposure and use of food outlets
International Journal of Health Geographics
Background Obesity remains one of the most challenging public health issues of our modern time. Despite the face validity of claims for influence, studies on the causes of obesity have reported the influence of the food environment to be inconsistent. This inconsistency has been attributed to the variability of measures used by researchers to represent the food environments—Researcher-Defined Food Environments (RDFE) like circular, street-network buffers, and others. This study (i.) determined
... n individual's Activity Space (AS) (ii.) explored the accuracy of the RDFE in representing the AS, (iii.) investigated the accuracy of the RDFE in representing actual exposure, and (iv.) explored whether exposure to food outlet reflects the use of food outlets. Methods Data were collected between June and December 2018. A total of 65 participants collected Global Positioning System (GPS) data, kept receipt of all their food purchases, completed a questionnaire about their personal information and had their weight and height measured. A buffer was created around the GPS points and merged to form an AS (GPS-based AS). Results Statistical and geospatial analyses found that the AS size of participants working away from home was positively related to the Euclidean distance from home to workplace; the orientation (shape) of AS was also influenced by the direction of workplace from home and individual characteristics were not predictive of the size of AS. Consistent with some previous studies, all types and sizes of RDFE variably misrepresented individual exposure in the food environments. Importantly, the accuracy of the RDFE was significantly improved by including both the home and workplace domains. The study also found no correlation between exposure and use of food outlets. Conclusions Home and workplace are key activity nodes in modelling AS or food environments and the relationship between exposure and use is more complex than is currently suggested in both empirical and policy literature.