Childhood obesity is a major public health concern. This study evaluated the independent and joint associations of family-level income, neighbourhood-level income and neighbourhood deprivation, in relation to child obesity.
A cross-sectional study was conducted in children ≤12 years of age from TARGet Kids! primary care network (Greater Toronto Area, 2013–2019). Parent-reported family income was compared with median neighbourhood income and neighbourhood deprivation measured using the Ontario Marginalization Index. Children’s height and weight were measured and body mass index (BMI) z-scores (zBMI) were calculated. ORs and 95% CIs were estimated for the three exposure variables separately using multilevel multinomial logistic regression models with zBMI categories as the outcome, adjusting in model 1 for age, sex, ethnicity and number of family members and in model 2 adding family income. A joint measure was derived combining income and deprivation measures.
A total of 5962 children were included. Low family income (Q1 vs Q5: OR=4.69, 95% CI 2.65 to 8.29), low neighbourhood income (Q1 vs Q5: OR=2.18, 95% CI 1.33 to 3.58) and high neighbourhood deprivation (Q1 vs Q5: OR=2.45, 95% CI 1.52 to 3.95) were each associated with increased OR of child obesity. However, after adjustment for family income, the association for both neighbourhood income (OR=1.39, 95% CI 0.82 to 2.34) and deprivation (OR=1.56, 95% CI 0.94 to 2.58) and obesity was attenuated. Children from low-income families living in low-income or high deprivation neighbourhoods had higher OR of obesity.
Child obesity was independently associated with low family-level income and a joint measure suggests that neighbourhood also matters. Socioeconomic inequalities at both individual and neighbourhood levels should be addressed in childhood obesity interventions.