SEATTLE — Can a nearby park affect your child's weight? Could a corner store battle obesity?
According to a study out of Seattle Children's Research Institute, the answer to both of those questions is: Yes.
“We are curious to see whether what is in a kid's neighborhood affects their weight status and their diet and their physical activity," explained Dr. Brian Saelens, a pediatric psychiatrist, and a behavioral science professor.
Saelens and his team of researchers followed more than 600 children ages 8 to 13 in King County, and San Diego County for two years.
Some of the children lived in neighborhoods with a walkable parks and access to healthy food. Other study subjects lived in less favorable environment.
“Some neighborhoods weren't very walkable, there was no park or no high-quality park, and there was a lot of fast food, and or no supermarket,” said Dr. Saelens.
Researchers measured the children's height, weight, and level of physical activity. The kids were closely monitored for any changes over two years.
While physical activity decreased for all of the kids, there were differences between the two groups.
“The kids in the least favorable environments got more sedentary and they got more sedentary than the kids in the most favorable environments,” said Dr. Saelens.
The study found that the number of children who were overweight or obese went up in the less favorable environments. Children in more favorable environments were about 40 to 50 percent less likely to be overweight or obese.
Saelens says more work needs to be done examining how financial privilege affects children's health.
“Lower income neighborhoods, more racially-ethnically diverse neighborhoods have poorer built environments. They don't have as many high-quality parks they aren't as walkable often times. They’re perceived as places that are less amenable to being outside. So we need to really focus on trying to change that,” stated Dr. Saelens.
Researchers at Seattle Children’s hope the study's findings will influence city leaders as they design and change low-income neighborhoods.
This story is sponsored by Seattle Children's.