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Childhood obesity and the built environment

Galvez, Maida Pa; Pearl, Meghanb; Yen, Irene Hc

Current Opinion in Pediatrics: April 2010 - Volume 22 - Issue 2 - p 202–207
doi: 10.1097/MOP.0b013e328336eb6f
Therapeutics and toxicology: Edited by Robert O. Wright

Purpose of review Neighborhood factors are increasingly examined for their role in the childhood obesity epidemic. Whereas studies on the impacts of neighborhood factors on adult obesity are relatively common, studies examining these same factors on childhood obesity are far fewer.

Recent findings Using the Ecological Systems Theory (EST) as a model, we sought to examine the strength of the literature with respect to neighborhood factors as outlined in EST. This includes factors related to the family and the school, which are embedded in larger social contexts of the community and society. These factors are often referred to in the literature as the ‘built environment’ which encompasses the entire range of structural elements in a residential setting including, for example, housing mix, transportation networks, public resources, and presence of sidewalks or trails.

Summary Whereas progress has been made with respect to the body of evidence supporting the role of neighborhood factors on childhood obesity and obesity-related behaviors, much work remains to be done to enhance our understanding of neighborhood level factors. As the body of evidence grows, these studies will inform multilevel interventions which are urgently needed to tackle the growing epidemic of childhood obesity in the US.

aDepartments of Preventive Medicine and Pediatrics, USA

bMount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, USA

cDivision of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, California, USA

Correspondence to Maida P. Galvez, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor, Departments of Preventive Medicine and Pediatrics, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, 1 Gustave L. Levy Place Box 1512, New York, NY 10029, USA Tel: +1 212 241 9063; fax: +1 212 241 4309; e-mail:

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.