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Urban planning a factor in rising obesity rates, says new report
Date:3/13/2008

You may want to buy healthy food for your family, but if the good grocery stores are far away and pricey and the fast-food outlets are cheap and plentiful, it may be harder to make the healthy choice. Research led by the University of Alberta and funded by the Canadian Institute for Health Information confirms there are links between our urban surroundings and how likely we are to struggle with obesity.

The startling rise in obesity rates in North America over the past two decades has led to calls for more effective approaches to help people achieve healthy weights. The State of the Evidence Review on Urban Health and Healthy Weights, released to the public this week, synthesizes the findings of hundreds of population health studies published over the years and shines a spotlight on aspects of our urban environments that can either inhibit or promote our ability to maintain a healthy weight.

Two key areas we looked at were economic environments and built environmentsmeaning the ways in which the neighbourhoods and the cities in which we live are planned and developed, said Kim Raine, director of the University of Albertas Centre for Health Promotion Studies and lead author of the report.

When we reviewed the evidence we found, for example, that lower-income neighbourhoods were more likely to have greater access to sources of high-calorie foods, such as fast-food outlets, and lower access to supermarkets or other stores stocking healthy foods, explained Raine. The report also found that a lower socio-economic statuswhich involves education level, income and employmentwas often associated with increased obesity among both adults and children. Lower personal income affects the affordability of food, Raine said, and that has been shown to have the most consistent influence on what people eat.

The walkability of neighbourhoods and access to recreational facilities in and around neighbourhoods may also assist in promoting healt
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Contact: Isabela C. Varela
isabela.varela@ualberta.ca
780-492-6041
University of Alberta
Source:Eurekalert

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