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Scientists measure connection between the built environment and obesity in baby boomers
Date:8/11/2008

Does your neighborhood have a lot of fast food outlets, few sidewalks, and no parks? If yes, your physical neighborhood may be hampering your ability to be physically active and placing you at increased risk for obesity. According to a research study conducted in Portland, Oregon by scientists at Oregon Research Institute (ORI), neighborhoods with lower mixed-land use and higher densities of fast-food outlets were more likely to have residents who were overweight/obese. In contrast, residents living in neighborhoods with higher mixed-land use, high street connectivity, better access to public transportation, and more green and open spaces were more likely to engage in some form of neighborhood-based walking.

The study was unique in that it focused on the pre-Baby Boom/early-Baby Boom generations (ages 50-75) which will become the major demographic related to healthcare utilization in the next 20 years. By 2030, 36% of the total U. S. population (compared to 24.9% currently), will be over 50, and the numbers of those over 60 will more than double from current levels (ranging from an 82% increase in people aged 60-64 to a 126% increase in those aged 85+). Results from the study, funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, are reported in the July issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

"Findings from this study suggest the significant role that built environment plays in either positively or negatively impacting our health and/or lifestyle," notes study lead Fuzhong Li, Ph.D. "34% of U.S. adults aged 20 and over are obese. Part of the rise in this disease may be attributed to our surroundings -- for example, increased accessibility to unhealthy foods. The built environment is also creating barriers for our ability to exercise: many neighborhood areas lack parks and other recreational facilities and suburbs are often designed to discourage neighborhood walking. Simply focusing on encouraging people
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Contact: Kathryn Madden
kathryn@ori.org
Oregon Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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