Social Norms and the Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables across New York City Neighborhoods

Yan Li, Donglan Zhang, José A. Pagán

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Consumption of fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of developing many chronic health conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. While five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day are recommended, only 50 % of New York City (NYC) residents consume two or more servings per day. In addition, there is wide variation in dietary behaviors across different neighborhoods in NYC. Using a validated agent-based model and data from 34 NYC neighborhoods, we simulate how a mass media and nutrition education campaign strengthening positive social norms about food consumption may potentially increase the proportion of the population who consume two or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day in NYC. We found that the proposed intervention results in substantial increases in daily fruit and vegetable consumption, but the campaign may be less effective in neighborhoods with relatively low education levels or a relatively high proportion of male residents. A well-designed, validated agent-based model has the potential to provide insights on the impact of an intervention targeting social norms before it is implemented and shed light on the important neighborhood factors that may affect the efficacy of the intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)244-255
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Urban Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016



  • Agent-based modeling
  • Neighborhoods
  • Nutrition education
  • Social norms
  • Urban health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Urban Studies
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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