Date of Conferral



Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)


Public Health


Mary Lou Gutierrez


Over 17 million food-insecure households are associated with increasing obesity rates across the United States. Although food insecurity and obesity are distinct social concerns, the two are linked and may be influenced by poverty and geographic location. Public health authorities and state leaders responsible for the health and nutrition of rural populations in particular would benefit from this information. The purpose of this quantitative cross-sectional study was to examine whether poverty mediated the relationship between food insecurity and obesity among urban and rural adults. The study was guided by the poverty, food insecurity, and obesity conceptual framework. The study addressed the association between poverty and food insecurity, poverty and obesity, and food insecurity and obesity. Records from 9068 participants in the 2012 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) were weighted to represent the population of Louisiana. Logistic regression models indicated that individuals living in poverty were 6 times more likely to experience food insecurity and that living in poverty and being food insecure doubled the odds of being obese. Poverty mediates the relationship between food insecurity and obesity in a dynamic and complex manner. Findings also indicated gender and age differences in rates of obesity, poverty, and food insecurity, as well as higher rates of obesity in rural populations. Social change implications include providing additional evidence of how poverty affects food insecurity and obesity, which may encourage states with high poverty rates to initiate food insecurity surveillance using BRFSS to reduce obesity.