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Geographic information systems demonstrate links between health and location
Date:4/9/2012

physical activity and the availability of healthy food options were strongly related to childhood obesity.

In a second study, the researchers used GIS-based measures to determine the 'walkability' and proximity to healthy food of certain neighborhoods in the San Diego and Seattle regions. The study recommends that such measures be used to study physical activity, nutrition and obesity outcomes.

In a paper titled "Obesogenic Environments in Youth: Concepts and Methods from a Longitudinal National Sample," Janne Boone-Heinonen and colleagues describe the challenges inherent to longitudinal neighborhood environment research, as well as the insights they gained and the advances and remaining gaps in study design. The researchers note that understanding which neighborhood environment features influence weight gain in various age groups is essential to effectively prevent and reduce childhood obesity.

Two commentaries included in the theme issue examine the ways that computer-based GIS systemswhich transform geospatial data into visual representations of the real worldcan help prevent childhood obesity. "Thinking About Place, Spatial Behavior, and Spatial Process in Childhood Obesity" by Stephen A. Matthews, outlines the content of the theme, concluding that although GIS is not a panacea, it "offers an important means of better understanding and dealing with some of the most pressing problems of our time, and provides valuable tools for researchers and policymakers alike."

The second commentary, providing a perspective from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, notes that while GIS is still in the relatively early stages of application in the field, it might one day enhance understanding of the complex and dynamic connections between people, their health and their physical and social environments.


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Contact: Beverly Lytton
eAJPM@ucsd.edu
858-534-9340
Elsevier Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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