Commentary

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 factorsââ?¬â??income, education, values, self-controlââ?¬â??are much more important than whether you live in the city or suburbs.

Ted Balaker is an award-winning filmmaker, journalist, and founding partner of Korchula Productions, a film and new media production company devoted to making important ideas entertaining.