Children’s neighbourhoods making them obese

A US study has found conclusive evidence that where a child lives has a significant impact on their chances of being obese.

A neighbourhood’s good walkability, proximity to high quality parks, and access to healthy food can lower the chances of being obese by almost 60 per cent, the study found.

The report, published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, Obesogenic Neighborhood Environments, Child and Parent Obesity: The Neighborhood Impact on Kids, was one of the first to look at how location impacts children’s nutrition and physical activity.

Researchers assessed Seattle and San Diego area neighborhoods’ nutrition and physical activity environments, which were defined based on supermarket availability and concentration of fast food restaurants.

The physical activity environments were defined by environmental factors including a neighbourhood’s walkability, and needed at least one park with more or better amenities for children.

Children living in neighbourhoods with low physical activity and nutrition environments had the highest rates of obesity at almost 16 per cent.

That figure is akin to the national average for obesity rates in the US, those high physical activity and nutrition neighbourhoods had half that obesity rate.

"People think of childhood obesity and immediately think about an individual’s physical activity and nutrition behaviors, but they do not necessarily equate obesity with where people live," Dr. Saelens, professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington and one of the leaders of the study, said.

"Everyone from parents to policymakers should pay more attention to zip codes because they could have a big impact on weight."

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