Over the last few years there have been several articles published in public health and urban planning journals that point to a possible link between neighborhood design and the level of obesity in such neighborhoods. The main contention is that neighborhoods that are conducive to physical activity due to their design or layout have lower levels of obesity.
This paper looks at the average body mass index (BMI) of teenage and adult automobile drivers and the percentage of those with a BMI of 30 or more (a threshold considered obese) in 35 residential zip codes that are fully or mostly contained in Louisville and Jefferson County Kentucky. Indices of sprawl, demographics, and levels of physical activity and eating habits and the percentage of people who walk or bike to work are used to assess average BMI and obesity. Least squares regression is used to analyze the data.
Despite the findings of other papers, for the Louisville area greater sprawl is not associated with higher BMI or greater obesity levels, even after controlling for other variables, and in first doing correlation analysis with all neighborhoods and then later with leaving out those neighborhoods with the highest levels of poverty, minority population, and crime, factors which are usually highly correlated with high levels of obesity but may confound the results of any analysis because such variables do not ordinarily exist in sprawled suburban neighborhoods.
The paper, along with a handful of others, and its results fail to support the view that there is a definite link between sprawled development and high BMI levels and/or obesity.
Lambert, T. and Min, H. (2010), "Neighborhood environment and obesity in the Louisville, Kentucky area", International Journal of Housing Markets and Analysis, Vol. 3 No. 2, pp. 163-174. https://doi.org/10.1108/17538271011049777Download as .RIS
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