The neighourhood obesogenic built environment characteristics (OBCT) index: Practice versus theory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Obesity is a key risk factor for major chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. To extensively characterise the obesogenic built environment, we recently developed a novel Obesogenic Built environment CharacterisTics (OBCT) index, consisting of 17 components that capture both food and physical activity (PA) environments. Objectives: We aimed to assess the association between the OBCT index and body mass index (BMI) in a nationwide health monitor. Furthermore, we explored possible ways to improve the index using unsupervised and supervised methods. Methods: The OBCT index was constructed for 12,821 Dutch administrative neighbourhoods and linked to residential addresses of eligible adult participants in the 2016 Public Health Monitor. We split the data randomly into a training (two-thirds; n = 255,187) and a testing subset (one-third; n = 127,428). In the training set, we used non-parametric restricted cubic regression spline to assess index's association with BMI, adjusted for individual demographic characteristics. Effect modification by age, sex, socioeconomic status (SES) and urbanicity was examined. As improvement, we (1) adjusted the food environment for address density, (2) added housing price to the index and (3) adopted three weighting strategies, two methods were supervised by BMI (variable selection and random forest) in the training set. We compared these methods in the testing set by examining their model fit with BMI as outcome. Results: The OBCT index had a significant non-linear association with BMI in a fully-adjusted model (p<0.05), which was modified by age, sex, SES and urbanicity. However, variance in BMI explained by the index was low (<0.05%). Supervised methods increased this explained variance more than non-supervised methods, though overall improvements were limited as highest explained variance remained <0.5%. Discussion: The index, despite its potential to highlight disparity in obesogenic environments, had limited association with BMI. Complex improvements are not necessarily beneficial, and the components should be re-operationalised.

Original languageEnglish
Article number118625
Pages (from-to)118625
JournalEnvironmental Research
Issue numberPt 1
Early online date11 Mar 2024
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2024

Cite this