Degree Name

DrPH (Doctor of Public Health)


Public Health

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Liang Wang

Committee Members

Deborah Slawson, Shimin Zheng


The prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity is increasing at an alarming rate in the United States. Currently more than 1 in 3 children aged 2-19 are overweight or obese. This is of major concern because childhood overweight and obesity leads to chronic conditions such as type II diabetes and tracks into adulthood, where more severe adverse health outcomes arise. In this study I used the premise of the social ecological model (SEM) to analyze the common levels that a child is exposed to daily; the intrapersonal level, the interpersonal level, the school level, and the community level to better understand what risk factors are significantly associated with child weight status. Data came from the 2012 National Survey of Children's Health (NSCH) (n=41,361). Frequencies and confidence intervals were used to describe risk factors at each level. Bivariate analyses were conducted between each risk factor and the outcome variable. Using all risk factors that were significantly associated with overweight and obesity in the bivariate analyses, multinomial logistic regressions were performed for each SEM level. The 4 SEM levels were then analyzed together using stagewise multinomial logistic regression. A significance level cutoff of 0.05 was applied to all analyses. Thirty-three percent of participants were overweight or obese. Child sex, race, age, child physical activity participation, mother’s education and health, the child’s family structure, the child’s participation in extracurricular activities, frequency of family meals at home, safety and engagement in school, the number of amenities and the safety and support within their communities were found to be significantly associated with child weight status. The odds ratios of the covariates in the final stagewise model were similar to those in each individual model. Understanding both the risk factors associated with child overweight and obesity in each individual level and in the complete socio-ecological perspective is important when working toward more effective policy and program creation and the reduction of childhood obesity. Recognizing that all levels of a child's SEM influence his or her likelihood of being overweight or obese can lead to more effective strategies that tackle multiple SEM levels collectively instead of each level independently.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.