Aims: Obesity is one of the most significant global health and social problems, with rates rising dramatically over the past few decades. While the basic drivers of obesity are obvious (more energy consumed than expended), the causes are multifactorial and complex. A decade ago, it was suggested that exploring the ways in which the built environment influenced physical activity and dietary behaviours might provide fertile ground for investigation. This article overviews current evidence and, in particular, emergent themes that are of significance for the United Kingdom.
Methods: This article is based on literature extracted from keyword searching of electronic databases. A timeframe of 2006-2016 was used.
Results: In the past decade, the research base has grown significantly; while frustratingly some results are still inconclusive or contradictory, it might be argued enough evidence exists to act upon. Themes such as the importance of the journey to school for young people and the multiple environments in which people spend their time are examples of where real progress has been made in the evidence base.
Conclusion: Progress towards real change in policy and practice may seem slow; however, the opportunities afforded for health and planning professionals to work together provide a step towards the whole systems approaches to tackle obesity that are desperately needed.
Keywords: built environment; food environments; obesogenic environment; physical activity.