$2.8 million public-private partnership to examine how surroundings can encourage active lifestyles

November 04, 2004

A new $2.8 million effort, partnering public and private funding agencies, will examine how better community design encourages people to be more physically active in their daily lives. Researchers will identify how our built environment contributes to obesity and how environmental changes can combat a growing public health problem.

"We need to be as creative and inventive as we can to encourage Americans to make physical activity a part of their daily lives," Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said. "This new partnership is one more example of how we are working to promote physical activity and improve public health."

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences is paying for the five-year evaluation of communities located across the U.S. to assess the impact on physical activity and obesity of local design and transportation changes. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Active Living by Design Program is supporting 25 community partnerships to develop and implement collaboration among a variety of organizations in public health and other disciplines, such as city planning, transportation, architecture, recreation, crime prevention, traffic safety and education, as well as key groups concentrating on land use, public transit, non-motorized travel, public spaces, parks, trails, and architectural practices that advance physical activity.

The program establishes innovative approaches to increase physical activity through community design and communications strategies. The NIEHS will examine the program's impact on physical activity, obesity, and other health indicators. Results from these 25 communities will be compared against communities that haven't improved their surroundings to encourage physical activity.

The built environment encompasses buildings like houses, schools, and workplaces; industrial or residential land uses; public areas like parks and museums; zoning regulations and transportation systems.

"We'd like to determine if simple changes in the built environment and in individual behavior can enhance physical activity and reduce obesity for residents," said Dr. Kenneth Olden, director of the NIEHS, which is the public agency funding the effort. "Local municipalities could then look at the results and determine if modifying the built environment might affect the public's health and reduce health care costs."

The World Health Organization declared excess weight as one of the top ten health risks in the world. The U.S. is no exception to the epidemic, 64 percent of American adults are either overweight or obese. Obesity, like most chronic health problems, is caused by complex interactions between genetic, environmental, and behavioral factors.

The Surgeon General's "Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity" (2001) pointed out that multidimensional communication, research, and evaluation would be needed to reverse the obesity epidemic. Environmental factors provide the greatest opportunity for actions and interventions designed for prevention and treatment of obesity, and behavior change can occur only in a supportive environment with accessible and affordable healthy food choices and opportunities for regular physical activity. For these reasons, the NIEHS has entered into a collaborative relationship with The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to evaluate how environmental interventions impact individual weight management.

One practical intervention is to modify the environmental contributors responsible for the majority of the obesity epidemic, such as food availability, sedentary lifestyles and behaviors, and the built environment. "Community design and limited transportation choice often prevent people from leading physically active lives," said Richard Killingsworth, director of Active Living by Design. "The partnership with NIEHS will allow us to identify how design and transportation can increase active living for everyone - young and old."

"The value of these community partnerships goes beyond the physical infrastructure" said Kate Kraft, senior program officer at The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "This pioneering program is more than just adding trails and sidewalks but investing in diverse partnerships that bring together citizens, local government and the private sector to build physical activity back into our communities. By creating and promoting environments that support physical activity, we can expand the opportunities for people to tackle obesity."

Physical activity can reduce the risk of a wide variety of chronic and acute illnesses including cardiovascular disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, colon cancer, obesity, depression, back pain and osteoporosis. Research shows that physical inactivity is a primary cause of overweight and obesity in the U.S.

"Less than half of all Americans reach the recommended amount of physical activity," said Dr. Allen Dearry, NIEHS associate director. "By looking at these communities around the country, we'll be able to better understand the relationship among the built environment, physical activity and obesity."
Part of the National Institutes of Health, NIEHS supports research to understand the effects of the environment on human health.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, based in Princeton, N.J., is the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care.

Located at the University of North Carolina's School of Public Health at Chapel Hill, the Active Living by Design Program was established to increase physical activity through the built environment.

For more information, go to:

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at www.niehs.nih.gov

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation at www.rwjf.org

Active Living by Design at www.activelivingbydesign.org

NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Related Obesity Articles from Brightsurf:

11 years of data add to the evidence for using testosterone therapy to treat obesity, including as an alternative to obesity surgery
New research covering 11 years of data presented at this year's European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) show that, in obese men suffering from hypogonadism (low testosterone), treatment with testosterone injections lowers their weight and improves a wide range of other metabolic parameters.

Overlap between immunology of COVID-19 and obesity could explain the increased risk of death in people living with obesity, and also older patients
Data presented in a special COVID-19 session at the European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) suggests that there are overlaps between the immunological disturbances found in both COVID-19 disease and patients with obesity, which could explain the increased disease severity and mortality risk faced by obese patients, and also elderly patients, who are infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 disease.

New obesity guideline: Address root causes as foundation of obesity management
besity management should focus on outcomes that patients consider to be important, not weight loss alone, and include a holistic approach that addresses the root causes of obesity, according to a new clinical practice guideline published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) http://www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.191707.

Changing the debate around obesity
The UK's National Health Service (NHS) needs to do more to address the ingrained stigma and discrimination faced by people with obesity, says a leading health psychologist.

Study links longer exposure to obesity and earlier development of obesity to increased risk of type 2 diabetes
Cumulative exposure to obesity could be at least as important as actually being obese in terms of risk of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D), concludes new research published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes [EASD]).

How much do obesity and addictions overlap?
A large analysis of personality studies has found that people with obesity behave somewhat like people with addictions to alcohol or drugs.

Should obesity be recognized as a disease?
With obesity now affecting almost a third (29%) of the population in England, and expected to rise to 35% by 2030, should we now recognize it as a disease?

Is obesity associated with risk of pediatric MS?
A single-center study of 453 children in Germany with multiple sclerosis (MS) investigated the association of obesity with pediatric MS risk and with the response of first-line therapy in children with MS.

Women with obesity prior to conception are more likely to have children with obesity
A systematic review and meta-analysis identified significantly increased odds of child obesity when mothers have obesity before conception, according to a study published June 11, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS Medicine by Nicola Heslehurst of Newcastle University in the UK, and colleagues.

Obesity medicine association announces major updates to its adult obesity algorithm
The Obesity Medicine Association (OMA) announced the immediate availability of the 2019 OMA Adult Obesity Algorithm, with new information for clinicians including the relationship between Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes Mellitus, Dyslipidemia, and Cancer; information on investigational Anti-Obesity Pharmacotherapy; treatments for Lipodystrophy; and Pharmacokinetics and Obesity.

Read More: Obesity News and Obesity Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.