Poverty and InequalitySexual and Reproductive HealthFamily, Maternal & Child HealthMethodology

Relationships between Vacant Homes and Food Swamps: A Longitudinal Study of an Urban Food Environment

TitleRelationships between Vacant Homes and Food Swamps: A Longitudinal Study of an Urban Food Environment
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsMui, Y, Jones-Smith, JC, Thornton, RLJ, Pollack Porter, K, Gittelsohn, J
JournalInt J Environ Res Public Health
Date PublishedNov 21
ISBN Number1660-4601
Accession Number29160811
Keywords*African American, *Food, *food environment, *food store, *food swamp, *Housing, *low-SES, *neighborhood, *Residence Characteristics, *Urban Population, *vacant home, Baltimore, Continental Population Groups, Diet, Humans, in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of data, in the writing of the manuscript, and in the decision to publish the results., Longitudinal Studies, the design of the study

Research indicates that living in neighborhoods with high concentrations of boarded-up vacant homes is associated with premature mortality due to cancer and diabetes, but the mechanism for this relationship is unclear. Boarded-up housing may indirectly impact residents' health by affecting their food environment. We evaluated the association between changes in vacancy rates and changes in the density of unhealthy food outlets as a proportion of all food outlets, termed the food swamp index, in Baltimore, MD (USA) from 2001 to 2012, using neighborhood fixed-effects linear regression models. Over the study period, the average food swamp index increased from 93.5 to 95.3 percentage points across all neighborhoods. Among non-African American neighborhoods, increases in the vacancy rate were associated with statistically significant decreases in the food swamp index (b = -0.38; 90% CI, -0.64 to -0.12; p-value: 0.015), after accounting for changes in neighborhood SES, racial diversity, and population size. A positive association was found among low-SES neighborhoods (b = 0.15; 90% CI, 0.037 to 0.27; p-value: 0.031). Vacant homes may influence the composition of food outlets in urban neighborhoods. Future research should further elucidate the mechanisms by which more distal, contextual factors, such as boarded-up vacant homes, may affect food choices and diet-related health outcomes.