Past research has assessed the association of single community characteristics with obesity, ignoring the spatial co-occurrence of multiple community-level risk factors. We used conditional random forests (CRF), anon-parametric machine learning approach to identify the combination of community features that are most important for the prediction of obesegenic and obesoprotective environments for children. After examining 44 community characteristics, we identified 13 features of the social, food, and physical activity environment that in combination correctly classified 67% of communities as obesoprotective or obesogenic using mean BMI-z as asurrogate. Social environment characteristics emerged as most im- portant classifiers and might provide leverage for intervention. CRF allows consideration of the neigh- borhood as a system of risk factors.

Health & Place 35 (2015) 136-146