Saturday, February 13, 2010

Fighting Childhood Obesity

Thanks to my friend Jessica for sending me the scoop on a newly published study in Preventative Medicine that investigated the link between traffic around the home and childhood obesity. The study tracked about 3,000 children from various communities in Southern California from age 9-10 to 18 to see how the built environment surrounding their homes affected their health.

The study shows a statistically significant correlation between the level of traffic within 150 meters of a child's home and their body mass index (BMI). Children living in areas with higher traffic density showed about a five percent increase in BMI.

The study authors suggest there could be a couple reasons for the correlation. Part of the problem could be that the high traffic levels instill a sense of fear in parents, who are then less likely to allow their children participate in "active" transportation (walking or biking) or outdoor play. Lung function could also play a role, as children exposed to air pollution from nearby traffic are more likely to have asthma, which may inhibit their ability to exercise.

Hopefully the first lady will keep this all in mind as she moves forward with her campaign (summarized here) against childhood obesity. Physical activity is a key component of the campaign, but without better community design it's going to be a hard task to get children to move more...

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