The Effect of the Neighbourhood Built Environment on Obesity in Christchurch
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
Obesity is becoming a worldwide concern, with more than 300 million individuals who are obese and a further 750 million who are overweight. This increase is important as obesity has been linked to an increased incidence of cardiovascular disease, type two diabetes mellitus, stroke and some cancers.
One factor receiving increasing attention to explain variation in obesity prevalence is the role of the built environment. This involves examining how features of the built environment such as green space or food premises vary by neighbourhood area. The presence of such resources within a neighbourhood can influence obesity through encouraging a healthy or unhealthy environment. It is important to understand how neighbourhoods influence obesity. This will allow the creation of effective public policy and urban design initiatives to reduce the obesity prevalence.
Little research has examined how the quality of these resources varies between neighbourhoods and their effect on the prevalence of obesity. This thesis addresses this using a systematic site survey tool to investigate how the quality of built environment resources varies by neighbourhood deprivation. It also employs a questionnaire to examine residents’ perception of their neighbourhood as these can influence obesity through the utilisation of healthy resources.
Three key findings were identified: there is a significant relationship between deprivation and the number of neighbourhood resources; the quality of these resources increases as deprivation increases; and residents in a high deprivation neighbourhood had a more positive perception of the neighbourhood. As a result, high deprivation neighbourhoods may be less likely to promote obesity as they have higher quality resources and residents have a more positive perception of the environment.
These findings suggest that the influence of the built environment is context specific and that it may not be as influential on obesity in Christchurch. It highlights the need to consider both individual and environmental factors in explaining the geographic variation of obesity.