If governments are serious about combatting obesity - which has almost doubled worldwide in 30 years - they should encourage land developers to provide neighbourhoods with high quality green spaces as well as access to a mix of service and convenience goods and public transport.
This is the message from researchers at The University of Western Australia who investigated the influence of the neighbourhood environment for more than 10,000 people taking part in the Western Australian Health and Wellbeing Survey.
The study, published in Environmental Health, was the first in the world to examine the relationship between people's weight across different stages of adulthood and neighbourhood greenness.
One of the researchers, Assistant Professor Hayley Christian from UWA's Centre for the Built Environment and Health, said with obesity affecting14 per cent of women and 10 per cent of men, it was a public health priority.
With her team, Assistant Professor Christian measured the greenness of Perth suburbs via Landsat satellite imagery and found obesity levels in people aged from 16 to over 65 were 22 per cent lower in neighbourhoods which were high in greenness, compared to those with less.
"Parks and tree-lined streets are typically representative of green vegetation that might promote physical activity and reduce overweight and obesity," Assistant Professor Christian said. "Neighbourhood attractiveness is consistently associated with increased recreational walking."
"Our findings also showed that a greater variation in neighbourhood greenness was associated with reduced odds of obesity, highlighting that access to neighbourhood destinations such as shops and services and well-connected tree-lined routes to these destinations is important."
"Overweight and obesity are important modifiable risk factors for widespread chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension and type II diabetes," she said.
Michael Sinclair-Jones (UWA Public Affairs) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 00 700 783