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Investigation into the Impact of the Built Environment on Obesity in Two Communities

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Assessment and Impact

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.857.1 - 25.857.11



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Paper Authors


Fouad H. Fouad University of Alabama, Birmingham

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Fouad H. Fouad is professor and Chairman of the Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, USA. He teaches and conducts research in the area of reinforced concrete structures and concrete materials, and has published numerous technical papers in the field. His research efforts have led to the development of national standards and specifications for a number of concrete products and building systems, including spun prestressed concrete poles and autoclaved aerated concrete. Fouad is a Past Chairman of ACI Committee 523 Cellular Concrete. He is the Current Chair and founding member of ACI Subcommittee 523A Autoclaved Aerated Concrete. In addition, Fouad chairs the ASTM Committee C27.60 on Autoclaved Aerated Concrete and the PCI Committee on Prestressed Concrete Poles. He is also a member of ACI Committee 224; member of ACI Committee 118, Consulting Member of ACI Committee 345, and Associate Member of ACI Committee 231. Fouad organized and chaired three ACI Technical Sessions on cellular concrete and autoclaved aerated concrete. He is also co-editor of the ACI SP 226 "Autoclaved Aerated Concrete-Properties and Structural Design," published by ACI in 2005. Fouad is a Fellow of ACI and ASCE. Fouad has received a number of prestigious awards due to his professional services in the civil engineering field. Notable awards include: the 2010 Engineering Council of Birmingham Engineer of the Year Award; the “2004 ASPE Circle of Excellence Award for Engineering Educator of the Year,” awarded by the Alabama Society of Professional Engineers; and the 1993 Ellen Greg Ingalls Award, UAB's highest honor for teaching. Fouad’s current research activities on green materials and construction methods have a global perspective. He recently held two National Science Foundation (NSF) international workshops (Dec. 2007 and March 2009) on sustainable green building design and construction. The last conference was attended by more than 400 scientists, architects, and engineers, and included experts from the USA, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

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Sarah Stephens Bettinger


Virginia Sisiopiku University of Alabama, Birmingham

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Virginia P. Sisiopiku is Associate Professor of transportation engineering in civil, construction, and environmental engineering at the University of Alabama, Birmingham (UAB). She holds a B.S. degree in civil engineering from Aristotle University in Greece, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in civil engineering from the University of Illinois, Chicago. Her research interests focus on traffic operations and safety, congestion and incident management, traffic simulation and modeling, and non-motorized transportation. She has served as the principal investigator in 70 projects and authored more than 130 technical papers. Sisiopiku has been recognized by many organizations for her professional achievements including the Institute of Transportation Engineers, the Federal Highway Administration, the Illinois Association of Highway Engineers, and the Women's Transportation seminar. She is the recipient of the 2007 President’s Excellence in Teaching Award and the 2010 Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentorship. She is an active member of the Institute of Transportation Engineers and the Transportation Research Board.

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Isabel C. Scarinci University of Alabama, Birmingham

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Isabel Scarinci is currently a professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Division of Preventive Medicine, and Associated Scientist at UAB’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, Center for Outcomes and Effectiveness Research and Education, Center for Aging, Sparkman Center for Global Health, and the Minority Health and Research Center (where she also serves as Co-leader of the Training Core). She has had extensive research and clinical experience working with underserved populations. Her primary area of interest is disease prevention among low-income, minority and immigrant women (particularly Latinos and African Americans). The focus of her work is on the application of behavioral science to public health by promoting behavior change at the population level.

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Mona N. Fouad

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The Impact of the Built Environment on Obesity in Low Income Communities By Dr. Fouad H. Fouad, Dr. Virginia Sisiopiku, Ms. Sarah S. Bettinger, Dr. Monica Baskin, Dr. Isabel Scarinci, Dr. Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, and Dr. Mona Fouad The University of Alabama at BirminghamAbstract:The role that the built environment plays on the health of a population is an area ofstudy that continues to gain support and understanding. Some of these factors areintuitive and well-known; the access to fresh, affordable, and high-quality food haslong been understood as a contributing factor to the health and well being of thepopulation. However, less well understood is the role that civil engineering factors,either those intentionally put into place to improve the quality of life incommunities, or those that have an accidental impact on the population, have on thehealth of the community. For example, it has been recognized that the waycommunities are designed is inextricably linked to the amount of physical activity thatlocal residents engage in and their overall quality of life. Recent studies also show a clearnegative correlation between bicycling and walking levels and levels of obesity and highThese factors related to the built environment play an important, but sometimesblood pressure in the U.S.overlooked, role in the overall health of our communities and our populations.Specifically, civil engineering factors relating to transportation, infrastructure, andland use may have direct and measurable effects of the health and well being ofpopulations.Research was conducted at the University of Alabama at Birmingham using amultidisciplinary approach to identifying the factors that contribute to increasedrates of obesity in populations in specific communities. In conjunction with severalother academic departments, our objective was to identify civil engineering factorsthat might negatively impact the rates of obesity in the populations of two particularlow income communities, Fairfield, Alabama and Forestdale, Alabama. Specifically,we were interested in gathering data only from existing sources and from personalinterviews with members of the communities under review. In addition toidentifying the contributing engineering factors, collecting relevant data, anddeveloping survey questions, we wanted to develop an exportable approach togathering this data for other communities around the country.To reach our specific research objectives, the civil engineering factors that might beshown to have a negative impact on obesity rates were first identified. Next, publicand existing sources of data pertaining to those factors were identified for each ofthe two communities under review. The governments of the two communities werecontacted, as well as county sources of data for both communities. Data that existedfor each factor for both communities were compiled and compared. For the twocommunities specifically under review for this project, there were only a fewengineering factors for which data for both neighborhoods could be found. For thisreason, and since the ultimate goal was to develop a methodology that could beexported to other communities around the country, additional sources of data thatwere not available for these two target communities were also identified andcompiled. Information that was not available through public records wasinvestigated through a survey that was prepared by the entire research team andadministered to residents of the two communities. Once the survey results are in,the obesity rates and relevant engineering factor data for the two targetcommunities will be compared to draw conclusions about the influence the studiedengineering factors might have on obesity.

Fouad, F. H., & Bettinger, S. S., & Sisiopiku, V., & Scarinci, I. C., & Fouad, M. N. (2012, June), Investigation into the Impact of the Built Environment on Obesity in Two Communities Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21614

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