Date of Award


Degree Type

Capstone Project

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


Public Health

First Advisor

John A. Steward, B.S., M.P.H.

Second Advisor

Christina Hemphill Fuller, ScD, SM

Third Advisor

Monica Robinson, B.S., M.B.A.


Introduction: In Atlanta, minority and low-income communities have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. There are many factors that can contribute to the risk of these poor health outcomes. While these personal factors play a part, there are environmental factors that can contribute as well. In lower income and high minority communities, there is an abundance of fast food restaurants, convenience stores and broken or missing sidewalks but a scarcity of healthy food options and fewer parks or poorer access to parks within their communities. As more health officials realized the connection between built environmental factors, environmental justice movement was formed. Robert Bullard first documented the movement while investigating the correlation of environmental quality and race.

Aim: This project examined the environmental justice issues with regards to a community’s food and physical activity built environment by comparing two areas, Bankhead and Buckhead. The Bankhead area is a high minority populated area with a median income of roughly $32,000. The Buckhead area has a majority white population with an average median income of about $63,000.

Methods: Using the modified Retail Food Environment Index and the Physical Activity Resource Assessment, we surveyed the differences between the two areas in regards to food access and physical activity facilities. Statistical tests were performed to describe and compare the findings between the two areas. The study focused on: 1) measuring healthy food availability with the mRFEI; 2) comparing number of food stores and food restaurants; 3) measuring availability of physical activity resources; and 4) observing park amenities.

Results: Findings confirmed low access to healthy food retailers as well as a high percentage of limited-service restaurants in the Bankhead area. Park access and availability was adequate for both areas and even showed a higher availability for the Bankhead area. However, park features were low for the parks located in the Bankhead area. The parks within the Buckhead area typically had several well-kept features such as basketball courts, tennis courts, soccer and baseball fields, etc. The Bankhead parks would usually have two of those features available but in adequate or poor conditions.

Discussion: Findings were similar to prior studies and could be useful to guide changes in Atlanta. Policies were suggested in order to provide local government and community level interventions to address the environmental justice issues.

Conclusions: These findings highlighted lack of food access and lack of park amenities using the mRFEI and PARA instruments. The results also brought to light a shortcoming of the tools. Although they can be used to examine the food and physical activity environments, they do not take population into account. Future work should look for tools that will take into account population to ensure equity is being properly addressed.