New research presented at this week’s World Diabetes Congress, organised by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and taking place this week in Vancouver, Canada, shows that people living in Metro Vancouver’s most ‘walkable’ neighbourhoods are around one third (31%) less likely to be overweight or obese than those living in the least walkable, most car-dependent neighbourhoods. This research is from the My Health My Community
project and prepared by Salman Klar, Population Health Observatory, Fraser Health Authority, British Columbia, Canada, with colleagues from Vancouver Coastal Health and the University of British Columbia.
Klar says, “We found that living in walkable areas was associated with significantly lower odds of being obese or overweight. Risk of obesity and diabetes are increasingly attributed to environmental factors however limited attention has been paid to the impact of physical features of a neighbourhood.”
Obesity is a major modifiable risk factor for type 2 diabetes and is influenced by complex interrelated factors including built environment. Low neighbourhood ‘walkability’ has been shown to be associated with obesity and diabetes. Walk Score® (WS), primarily developed for real estate use, measures walkability to services and amenities. This new study assessed the association between neighbourhood walkability and body mass index (BMI), as a pathway to onset of type 2 diabetes in Metro Vancouver (MV), Canada.
BMI and WS data were available for 79% (n=22,499) of MV respondents. In the sample 42% were obese/overweight, and 7% reported diabetes diagnosis. The researchers found that compared to car dependent areas (WS<50), those living in “walker’s paradise” (WS≥90) had 31% lower odds of being obese/overweight and those living in very walkable areas (WS 70-89) had 11% lower odds of being obese/overweight. The association between BMI and somewhat walkable areas (WS 50-69) was not significant when compared with least walkable areas.
Dr. Jat Sandhu, Principal Investigator, My Health My Community, with Vancouver Coastal Health says, “Walkable neighbourhoods play an important role in preventing obesity and type 2 diabetes by encouraging active lifestyles and increasing accessibility to services and amenities. Municipal planners should view access to walkable neighbourhoods as physical activity resources for the community.”
The researchers used data from the cross sectional My Health My Community
(MHMC) survey, which was conducted primarily online from 2013-14 and targeted MV, British Columbia residents aged 18 years and over. BMI was calculated using self-reported height and weight, and adjusted for reporting bias. They used statistical modelling to identify associations between body mass index (BMI) and WS while adjusting for various sociodemographic, health status, lifestyle behaviour and built environment factors. The authors acknowledge that the limitations of this analysis include the self-reported nature of MHMC survey data, and that WS does not measure quality of the amenities or access.
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This press release is based on abstract VA-1624, being presented at the congress. There is no ‘full paper’ available for journalists; however the authors are happy to answer questions using the contact details above.