Health and Fitness Indicators by Omaha Neighborhood

Janae Cameron, Abigail Mitchell, Scarlett Hill, Langston Hoover, Evan Kopiasz

Environmental factors affect the way of overall health and fitness of people across the nation. This study focuses on how those factors affect the people of Omaha’s health and fitness. Roughly 61 percent of adults in Douglas County, Nebraska are overweight or obese, compared to the national rate in the United States being 39.6 percent. Information will be gathered from the Douglas County Health data, the city of Omaha Parks and Recreation, and various maps. This study aims to tell the story of Omaha’s level of health and fitness through looking at the specific areas of North Omaha (68111), South Omaha (68107), West Omaha (68114), Downtown Omaha (68108), and Fremont (68025, 68026). 

Figure 1. Douglas county zip code boundaries are shown.

Methodology

For this study, information was gathered on the basis of health and fitness on a national level as well as information directly relating to the Omaha area. National and local data was gathered from various scholarly articles and were analyzed down to the most relevant themes. These themes included race, income, life expectancy, and environment. Each of these themes were then applied to certain zip codes in the Omaha area that reflect different divisions of Omaha including: North, South, West, Downtown, and Fremont.  Data was collected from each area to indicate the health and fitness trends of the city of Omaha. The original data set was gathered and each researcher composed an orientating memo in response to it and through discussion themes were chosen to be explored more systematically in the data. After discussion, the data was then compiled into coding tables that were broken down into positive signs, negative signs, and race, income, and life expectancies that all related to the health and fitness of Omaha.  

Findings

Positive Signs of Health and Fitness

Within Omaha, there are several factors that contribute to the positive outcomes of health and fitness. These factors include grocery stores, gyms, trails, and parks that aid in better access to healthier items and lifestyles. Grocery stores have access to healthier food options to residents in a community while gyms, trails, and parks promote physical activity. Regardless of where an individual lives there are “significant association between physical activity and obesity” so having parks, gyms, and trails in a concentrated area helps to lead to a healthier community (Cohen, Greaney, & Sabik, 2018).

Figure 2. Map of trails in the Omaha area.

West Omaha There are 23, 913 people in the area code of 68114.  There are a total of 12 gyms in the area code. If everyone in the area were to be apart of a gym that would be 1,992 people per gym. With only 9 parks in the area that would be a ratio of 2,657 people to 1 park. West Omaha is also home to 14 grocery stores. This means that there is 1 store for 1,708 citizens. 

North Omaha North Omaha (68111)  is home to over 23,000 people. There is a total of six gyms within the zip code of 68111. Based on the population, there would be 3,899 people of North Omaha to one single gym. There is one trail that passes through North Omaha and nine total parks within the 5.2 square miles. For 23,939 people, that would make one park to 2,339 people and one trail to the whole population. There are a total of fourteen grocery stores making the ratio 1,671 people to one grocery store. North Omaha has low access to these locations that promote health and fitness based on the people-to-place ratio. 

South Omaha In the South Omaha location (zip code: 68107), it was observed in the collected data that there are some environmental factors that are on trend with the surrounding areas as well as some outliers. The ratio of people to grocery stores in this area is about 1,735:1 which proved to be in line with other Omaha areas. In contrast, there are only six gyms in the area resulting in a 4,915:1 resident to gym ratio. In addition to this, there are only two parks/trails in this zip code. This lacking component of the residents’ positive environmental factors leaves them with a park/trail ratio of 14,746:1.

Downtown Omaha Downtown Omaha (68108) is home to 15,342 people. There are 17 gyms in the area. If everyone were to go to a gym then the ratio of people to gym would be 903 people to a gym. There are 7 parks and trails in the area. The ratio of people to park, or trail, would be 2,192 people to one. Downtown Omaha is also home to 18 grocery stores. The ratio for one grocery store to citizens is 1 to 852. 

Fremont Fremont (68025, 68026) has a population of 26,509 people. Fremont has plenty of gyms, parks, and trails. For every 1656 people there is 1 gym, and for every 1325 people, there is at least 1 park or trail. There are 17 grocery stores, which is a ratio of 1559 people for every one store. Overall, the area gives many opportunities for exercise and physical activity, as well as providing the citizens with more than enough convenience and grocery stores.  

Comparisons Across all divisions, the grocery store-to-people ratio remained relatively the same with the exception of downtown omaha, which has a better ratio with one grocery store to 852 people. For one single gym West Omaha has 1,992 people, North Omaha has 3,899 people, South Omaha has 4,915 people, Downtown has 902 people, and Fremont has 1,656 people. Parks and trails are generally within a few thousand people to one single park with the outlier being South Omaha with 14,746 people to a park or trail. Table 1 below shows the distribution of gyms, parks, and trails for the selected areas. 

West Omaha23,913North Omaha 23,393South Omaha29,491Downtown15,342Fremont26,509
Gyms12661716
Parks/Trails9102720
Grocery Stores1414171817

Table 1. Distribution of amount of gyms, parks, and trails for the given areas. 

 Negative Signs of Health and Fitness

While there are positive contributions within communities that grant access to healthier options, there are always fast food restaurants and convenience stores that create a negative effect on health and fitness in communities. It was discovered from out literature review in an article titled, “Availability of Physical Activity-Related Facilities and Neighborhood Demographic and Socioeconomic Characteristics”, that fewer physical activity-related facilities are located in areas of lower income. Additionally, neighborhoods with high proportions of African American residents and other minorities are found to have significantly lower levels of physical activity-related facilities. Along with this, fast food chains are known to target lower income areas because of their appeal for cheaper, faster, and easier food options.

West Omaha West Omaha has 16 fast food restaurants and 14 total convenience stores. This puts 1, 495 people for each fast food place and 1,708 for each convenience store for the population. As you can see the ratio of fast food to a citizen of West Omaha is much lower than the ratio of gyms and parks to the citizens.  

North Omaha North Omaha is home to twenty fast food restaurants and 20 convenience stores. There is a much lower ratio of people to place, as there would be 584 people to one fast food restaurant and convenience store for the population. This makes the accessibility of fast food restaurants and convenience stores much easier in comparison to grocery stores. Easy access to these negative signs of health and fitness reflect a disadvantage to the people of North Omaha. 

 South Omaha The negative environmental factors that play a role in the members of the South Omaha community (zip code: 68107) include the vast number of fast food restaurants and convenience stores. The ratio of individuals to fast food restaurants and convenience stores is 1,229:1. This ratio is significantly closer than any of the positive environmental factors. The positive environmental factor ratio that comes closest to this one is people to grocery stores and even this number is over 500 people per store higher. 

Downtown Omaha Downtown Omaha has 8 fast food restaurants and 20 convenience stores. The ratio of fast food to citizens is 1 to 1,918 and the ratio of convenience store to citizens is 1 to 767. The ratio of citizens to fast food or convenience stores is much lower than for gyms, trails, etc. 

Fremont In contrast to the vast amount of grocery stores and gyms, there is a great number of fast food and convenience stores as well. There are 20 fast food restaurants which is a ratio of 1325 people per restaurant. For every one convenience store there are 1559 people. Overall, while there are many grocery stores to give citizens fresh produce, there are many convenience stores as well providing unhealthy snacks alongside 20 fast food restaurants.

Comparisons Fast food restaurants are easily attainable within Omaha; as shown in table 2, most of the ratios are much lower for people to a single fast-food restaurant or convenience store then to a single grocery store. With fast food and convenience store food items being cheaper and therefore easier to access, people are more likely to go for more convenient options based on income. 

West Omaha23,913North Omaha 23,393South Omaha29,491Downtown15,342Fremont26,509
Convenience stores1420172017
Fast food16207820

Table 2. Distribution of convenience stores and fast food restaurants in given areas.

Comparisons of Positive and Negative Signs of Health and Fitness

Figure 3 below compares the negative and positive signs in each given area code. The number of negative signs was determined by adding the total number of convenience stores and fast food restaurants in each area code together. The same method was used to determine the positive signs, but the number of gyms, parks/trails, and grocery stores were added.. As you can see the negative signs are often higher than the positive, except in area code 68108, where they are both the same.  

Figure 3. Comparison of Positive and Negative Signs in Omaha area.

Left to right: West Omaha, North Omaha, Downtown, South Omaha, and Fremont

Race, Income, and Life Expectancies

Race, income, and life expectancies are all key factors that contribute to further understanding the health and fitness trends in the Omaha area.  The average life expectancy in Douglas County, shown in Figure 3, is 78.0 years old, which is just below the national average of 78.69 years. In an article titled “Neighborhood socioeconomic status predictors of physical activity through young to middle adulthood: The CARDIA Study, it states that whites showed much higher physical activity and neighborhood education and income compared to blacks. 

Figure 4. Life expectancies are shown by zip code in Douglas County.

West Omaha West Omaha’s (68114) racial makeup of the 23, 913 people is: eighty-eight percent white, five percent hispanic, three percent black, three percent asian, and the other one percent is made up of other races. The average income in the area is $64,940, which is higher than many other area codes in Omaha. Area code 68114 also has a life expectancy of 79.9 years old.  

North Omaha North Omaha’s racial makeup of the 23,939 people is: twenty-eight percent white, fifty-two percent black, thirteen percent Hispanic, and seven percent mixed. The average income in North Omaha is $26,284, which is much lower than the average in Omaha. 68111 also has the lowest life expectancy in Omaha, at 71.4 years old, which is much lower than the average life expectancy of Douglas County. 

South Omaha In South Omaha (zip code: 68107), is contrived of 29,491 residents. The racial makeup of this area is composed of 5.8% black, 31.82% white (non-Hispanic), and 69.07% Hispanic. It can be easily seen that this area is largely made up of individuals of a minority group. The average income in the region is $40,519 which is lower than the majority of the other areas in Omaha from which we collected data. The average life expectancy of this zip code is 76.9 years old.

Downtown Omaha The racial makeup of the 15,342 citizens in Downtown Omaha is 51% Hispanic, 42% White, 3% Black, 1% Native, 1% Asian, 2% Mixed. The average income is $38,966 and the average life expectancy is 74.5.

Fremont 81.1% of Fremont’s population is white, with no Hispanic or latino ethnicity. 14.9% are Hispanic or Latino, 1.3% are black, 0.9% American Indian, and 0.8% Asian. Out of the 26,509 people living here, the average income is $50,007 and they have an average life expectancy of 79.4 years. It is staggering how overpopulated this area is with white people. It was even more staggering to realize that only about 3% of the population is Black, Asian, and American Indian. 

 Comparisons North Omaha has the lowest average income and the lowest life expectancy in the Omaha area that we studied, while West Omaha has the highest average income and one of the highest life expectancies in relation to the data we collected. The difference in years of the highest average  This shows a correlation between income and life expectancy, as shown in figure 3. Omaha is a racially segregated city, where North Omaha has a majority racial makeup of black people, South Omaha has Hispanic, and West Omaha and Fremont are majorly made up of white people in the population. Downtown Omaha has a majority of both Hispanic and white people. 

West Omaha23,913North Omaha 23,393South Omaha29,491Downtown15,342Fremont26,509
Life Expectancy79.971.481.474.579.4
RaceWhite: 88.5%Hispanic: 4.9%Black: 2.9%White: 28%Black: 52%Hispanic: 13%Black: 5.8%White: 31.82%Hispanic: 69.07%Hispanic: 51%White: 42%Black: 3%Black: 1.3% Hispanic: 14.9% White: 81.1% 
Income$64,940$26,284$40,519$38,996$50,007

Table 3. Life expectancy, racial makeup, and income of the given areas.

Analysis

In addition to the secondary data collected, there were additional readings which were analyzed and incorporated into this study. The concept of racial steering can be observed in the areas of Omaha studied. Certain races can be seen grouped in specific areas of the city which leads to racial segregation throughout Omaha. One similarity that was discovered between the articles read and overall Omaha area, is that lower income individuals may not have the same availability to recreational facilities compared to higher income individuals (tennis courts, golf courses, gyms). In North Omaha, where the average income is $26,284, there are the fewest amount of gyms at 6, which is tied with South Omaha, where the average income is the third lowest at $40,519. However, in direct contrast is downtown Omaha, which has the second lowest income at $38,996 but the most amount of gyms out of every area studied.  It was also shown in the article about racial-ethnic differences in types of exercise that lower income people may not be able to afford certain commodities, such as a gym memberships or exercise gear. The reason for the low amount of gyms in North Omaha could be due to the fact that many of the residents there can’t afford one with all the other expenses they have. In the same article, it was stated that more educated individuals are more likely to exercise because they are more knowledgeable about the benefits of exercise. Even though many people in North Omaha won’t get a gym membership, they still will spend their money on plenty of fast food. This is proven by North Omaha having the highest amount of fast food and convenience stores. If the people there didn’t spend as much as they do on fast food, then there wouldn’t be near as many fast food restaurants. The overall increase of fast food restaurants in an area lead to a decrease of overall health and fitness. Despite that “physical inactivity was associated with a 54% higher odds of obesity and 36% higher odds of overweight” citizens rather spend their money on fast food than gym memberships 

Conclusion

In conclusion, it can be observed through the collected data as well as through the literary analysis that environmental factors do in fact impact the health of a community. The communities that consisted of a majority of minority groups were seen to be consistently more environmentally disadvantaged when regarding factors that impact health. There are more positive factors in predominantly white communities with a higher income than there are anywhere else which places an emphasis on the disadvantages these minority groups as well as areas of lower income face. These disadvantages lead to lower life expectancy in North and South Omaha in comparison to other communities.

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