One of the subcommittee members sent me an email asking why the US National Cancer Institute was funding research on urban sprawl. It occurred to me that others might be interested in our response. Here it is:
Thanks very much for your question about why NCI is investing in research on urban sprawl. This investment is part of our mission to “...contribute to reducing cancer in the US population by serving as a critical link between etiologic research on cancer risk factors and the translation of such research into targeted and effective interventions for prevention” (http://appliedresearch.cancer.gov/about/rfmmb/). Much of our work is based on a socio-ecological model of behavior, emphasizing the potential for diverse social and contextual factors—such as urban sprawl—to act as influences on cancer (Sallis and Owen, 1996; Dannenberg et al. 2011). There is a growing literature exploring the potential relationship between urban sprawl, health behaviors and health outcomes, including cancer mortality (James et al. 2013; Berrigan et al. 2014; Ewing et al. 2014). To date, a wide variety of cross-sectional associations between urban sprawl and health and health behaviors have been documented (e.g. Ewing et al. 2006; Lee et al. 2009).
Sallis JF, Owen N (1996). Ecological models. In: Glanz K, Lewis FM, Rimer BK (eds.), Health behavior and health education: theory, research and practice, pp. 403–424. Jossey- Bass, San Francisco, CA.
Dannenberg A., Frumkin, H, Jackson, R. 2011. Making Healthy Places: Designing and Building for Health, Well-being, and Sustainability. Island Press
Berrigan D, Tatalovich Z, Pickle LW, Ewing R, Ballard-Barbash R. Urban sprawl, obesity, and cancer mortality in the United States: cross-sectional analysis and methodological challenges. International Journal of Health Geographics. 2014, 13:3 (6 January 2014)
James P, Troped PJ, Hart JE, Joshu CE, Colditz GA, Brownson RC, Ewing R, Laden F. Urban sprawl, physical activity, and body mass index: Nurses' Health Study and Nurses' Health Study II.. Am J Public Health. 2013 Feb;103(2):369-75.
Lee IM, Ewing R, Sesso HD. The built environment and physical activity levels: the Harvard Alumni Health Study. Am J Prev Med. 2009 Oct;37(4):293-8. doi:
Ewing R, Brownson RC, Berrigan D. Relationship between urban sprawl and weight of United States youth. Am J Prev Med. 2006 Dec;31(6):464-74.
Ewing R, Meakins G, Hamidi S, Nelson AC. Relationship between urban sprawl and physical activity, obesity, and morbidity - Update and refinement. Health Place. 2014 Mar;26:118-26.
Please let me know if any would like further information about our program and its activities
David Berrigan PhD MPH
Applied Research Program
Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences
National Cancer Institute
9609 Medical Center Drive MSC 7344
Bethesda MD 20892-7344