Overweight and obesity have a strong socioeconomic profile. Unhealthy behaviors like insufficient physical activity and an unbalanced diet, which are causal factors of overweight and obesity, tend to be more pronounced in socioeconomically disadvantaged groups in high income countries. The CIVISANO project aims to identify objective and perceived environmental factors among different socioeconomic population groups that impede or facilitate physical activity and healthy eating behavior in the local context of two peri-urban Flemish municipalities in Belgium. We also aim to identify and discuss possible local interventions and evaluate the participatory processes of the project.
This study (2020–2023) will use community-based participatory tools, involving collaborative partnerships with civic and stakeholder members of the community and regular exchanges among all partners to bridge knowledge development and health promotion for socioeconomically disadvantaged citizens. Furthermore, a mixed-methods approach will be used. A population survey and geographic analysis will explore potential associations between the physical activity and eating behaviors of socioeconomically disadvantaged adults (25–65 years old) and both their perceived and objective physical, food and social environments. Profound perceptive context information will be gathered from socioeconomically disadvantaged adults by using participatory methods like photovoice, walk-along, individual map creation and group model building. An evaluation of the participatory process will be conducted simultaneously.
The CIVISANO project will identify factors in the local environment that might provoke inequities in adopting a healthy lifestyle. The combination of perceived and objective measures using validated strategies will provide a robust assessment of the municipality environment. Through this analysis, the project will investigate to what extent community engagement can be a useful strategy to reduce health inequities. The strong knowledge exchange and capacity-building in a local setting is expected to contribute to our understanding of how to maximize research impact in this field and generate evidence about potential linkages between a health enhancing lifestyle among socioeconomically disadvantaged groups and their physical, food and social environments.