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Factors related to Obesity Disparities

The Health Equity Toolkit focuses on factors which may contribute to obesity disparities at the outermost levels of the SEM. The Toolkit emphasizes examples of three evidence-informed strategies to reduce obesity-related disparities:

  1. Increasing access to fruits and vegetables through healthier food retail
  2. Engaging in physical activity
  3. Decreasing consumption of sugar drinks through increased access to fresh, potable water

For additional reading on obesity and the SEM, visit:

Lack of Access to Fruits and Vegetables through Healthy Food Retail

A produce aisle with a variety of fruits and vegetables.

Access, or the lack thereof, to fruits and vegetables is an environmental factor which can facilitate or challenge the consumption of these healthy food options. While not the entire story of access to fruits and vegetables, food deserts contribute to the access issue. A “food desert” is a geographical area with few fresh food retailers (i.e., grocery stores, farmers’ markets, etc.), which contributes to an environment of limited access to fruits and vegetables.

For more information on Food Deserts, visit:

Barriers to Physical Activity

A young Hispanic family rides bicycles together in a park.

A challenge found across multiple levels of the SEM, which may contribute to obesity and obesity disparities, is barriers to physical activity. Lack of access to sidewalks, recreational facilities, or safe parks may contribute to low levels of physical activity engaged in by community members.

For additional resources on barriers to physical activity, visit:

Lack of Access to Clean Water and Overconsumption of Sugar Drinks

A young Hispanic girl drinks from a water fountain.

In addition to improving access to fruits and vegetables and providing opportunities for physical activity, p.8 of the Toolkit also discusses the strategy of replacing consumption of sugar drinks with water.

Ensuring access to potable drinking water options, as well as campaigns and programs to encourage the consumption of water in lieu of energy-dense alternatives are strategies which may be implemented at the Structures and Systems, Community, and Organizational levels of the SEM.

  • Institute of Medicine (IOM)
  • California Center for Public Health Advocacy (CCPHA) Kick the Can project
    • Check this website out to review a list of state level healthy beverage campaigns and initiatives. Visit their site to see how states are working to increase access to water and decrease consumption of sugar drinks.
  • The Weight of the Nation
    • This HBO documentary series, produced in collaboration with the IOM and CDC, highlights the effects of unhealthy food and beverage environments on obesity in the U.S.
  • Program Assessment and Capacity Building: A Case Study
    • Visit p.23 of the Toolkit to see how the Nevada State Health Division (NSHD) promoted healthy beverages in lieu of sugar drinks.
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