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The Prevalence of Harmful Content on Outdoor Advertising in Los Angeles

Published by USC Bedrosian Center on

Bryce C. Lowery and David C. Sloane. The Prevalence of Harmful Content on Outdoor Advertising in Los Angeles: Land Use, Community Characteristics, and the Spatial Inequality of a Public Health Nuisance. American Journal of Public Health: April 2014, Vol. 104, No. 4, pp. 658-664.
doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2013.301694


Objectives. Our study sought to examine associations between the content of outdoor advertising and neighborhood ethnic/racial and socioeconomic composition to see whether particular communities disproportionately host harmful content.

Methods. We constructed a spatial database of photographs taken from June 2012 until December 2012 in 7 identically zoned communities in Los Angeles, California, to compare outdoor advertising area and content. We selected communities to contrast by ethnicity/race, income, education, and youth population.

Results. At-risk communities and communities of color hosted more outdoor advertising depicting harmful content than other communities. Among included neighborhoods, harmful content and the proportion of outdoor advertising overall were most prevalent in communities of Asian Americans and Latino Americans. In all communities, harmful content represented at least 24% of outdoor advertising space.

Conclusions. This study provides evidence of the potential for land-use decisions to result in spatially inequitable health impacts. Although dictating the placement of outdoor advertising through zoning may seem sensible, such a decision might have the unintended consequence of disadvantaging the well-being of local communities. Neighborhood factors require more contextually nuanced public health and land-use policy.


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