Date of Conferral



Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)


Public Health


James Rohrer


In the United States, over two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese, and the number of children and adolescents who are overweight is increasing. Obesity is a significant issue as obesity-related chronic diseases can result in diminished quality or life, high morbidity and mortality, and substantial healthcare costs. The purpose of this study was to examine neighborhood social capital and how it relates to adolescent obesity. The socio-ecological model was used as the theoretical framework of this study to examine how the environment and social contexts influence health behaviors. Utilizing a quantitative cross-sectional research design, bivariate and multivariate analyses were conducted on 43864 10 to 17 year-olds using secondary data from the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children's Health. Controlling for age, gender, race, and overall health status, logistic regression analysis indicated that supportive environments predict the odds of adolescent overweight and obesity, while safer communities did not significantly predict the odds of adolescent overweight or obesity. The results of this study showed that there was a significant association between living in a supportive neighborhood and a decreased likelihood of an adolescent being overweight or obese (OR = 0.797). Associations were also found in demographic variables such as race, gender, and age. Positive social change implications from this study may include use of the findings by public health practitioners to better understand the factors that influence adolescent obesity in general, and the role of the social neighborhood environment in particular. In turn, public health workers can use this improved understanding to improve the quality of interventions, programs, and policies, resulting in positive social change among adolescents.