Potestio M.L., Patel A.B., Powell C.D., McNeil D.A. Jacobson R.D. and McLaren L. (2009) Is there an association between spatial access to parks/green space and childhood overweight/obesity in Calgary, Canada? International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 6:77 doi:10.1186/1479-5868-6-77
Background: The recent increase in childhood obesity is expected to add significantly to the prevalence of chronic diseases. We used multivariate multilevel analysis to examine associations between parks/green space and childhood overweight/obesity across communities in Calgary, Canada, a city characterized by intensified urban sprawl and high car use.
Methods: Body Mass Index was calculated from measured height and weight data obtained from 6,772 children (mean age = 4.95 years) attending public health clinics for pre-school vaccinations. Each child's home postal code was geocoded using ESRI ArcGIS 9.2. We examined four measures of spatial access to parks/green space (based onGeographic Information Systems): 1) the number of parks/green spaces per 10,000 residents, 2) the area of parks/green space as a proportion of the total area within a community, 3) average distance to a park/green space, and 4) the proportion of parks/green space service area as a proportion ofthe total area within a community. Analyses were adjusted for dissemination area median family income (as a proxy for an individual child's family income) community-level education, and community-level proportion of visible minorities.
Results: In general, parks/green space at the community level was not associated with overweight/ obesity in Calgary, with the exception of a marginally significant effect whereby a moderate number of parks/green spaces per 10,000 residents was associated with lower odds of overweight/obesity. This effect was non-significant in adjusted analyses.
Conclusion: Our null findings may reflect the popularity of car travel in Calgary, Canada and suggest that the role built environment characteristics play in explaining health outcomes may differ depending on the type of urban environment being studied.