Out of Control Policy Blog

Whatís making the kids fat? Part III

My college Sam told me about this:

    Carnegie Mellon Research Shows U.S. Cities Are Making Children Obese

    PITTSBURGH Research by Carnegie Mellon University Associate Teaching
    Professor Kristen Kurland demonstrates that urban neighborhoods lack
    adequate space for physical activity and healthy food choices for
    children, contributing to the high rate of childhood obesity
    . Her studies
    recommend ways to modify cities' built environment and reduce the
    tremendous costs of this growing problem.

    This GIS map shows a five- and 10-minute walking radius of a school.
    Combining vector and aerial data allows for a detailed analysis of the
    physical environment.

    Kurland leads an interdisciplinary team from Carnegie Mellon, Highmark
    Insurance, the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health
    and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Children's Hospital. In
    an effort to better understand obesity in targeted areas, the team mapped
    low-income urban neighborhoods, focusing on food sources, parks and
    fields, sidewalk conditions, neighborhood amenities, and safety and
    demographic information like race and income. The team also created
    Geographical Information System (GIS) maps that show a five- and 10-minute
    walking radius of a school.

    The research reveals that the way cities are built influences children's
    weight. Prominent factors include how much exercise they receive and what
    food sources are nearby.

The study's "lack of space" point seems to square with a recent Aussie study, which found that your little wallaroo is less likely to be chunky if you have a big backyard.

But let's not overlook the big-picture: other factors–income, education, values, self-control–are much more important than whether you live in the city or suburbs.

Ted Balaker is Producer


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