Neighbourhoods and obesity: A prospective study of characteristics of the built environment and their association with adiposity outcomes in children in Montreal, Canada

Prev Med. 2018 Jun;111:35-40. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2018.02.018. Epub 2018 Feb 17.


This paper examined prospective associations between built environment features assessed at baseline using direct audits and adiposity outcomes two years later in Montreal, Canada. Data stem from the Quebec Adipose and Lifestyle Investigation in Youth study of 630 children aged 8-10 years with a parental history of obesity. Baseline measurements took place between 2005 and 2008. Follow-up took place between 2008 and 2011. Built environment features were assessed at baseline in up to 10 contiguous street segments around participants' residential addresses using on-site audits. Analyses were restricted to participants who reported the same address both at baseline and follow-up. Prospective associations between adiposity outcomes at follow-up (BMI z-score and waist-height ratio) and built environment features at baseline (traffic-calming features, pedestrian aids, disorder, physical activity facilities, convenience stores, and fast-food restaurants) were examined using multivariable regression models. 391 children were included in the analyses. In fully-adjusted models, children living in residential areas with presence of pedestrian aids had lower BMI z-score, and lower waist-height ratio. Also, children residing in residential areas with at least one convenience store had lower BMI z-score, and lower waist-height ratio at follow-up. Findings provide evidence of the potential role of street-level urban design features in shaping childhood adiposity. To better inform policy and intervention, future research should explore the possibility of reducing obesogenic neighbourhoods by enhancing street-level design features.

Keywords: Adiposity; Built environment; Childhood obesity; Neighbourhoods; Prospective.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity / physiology*
  • Built Environment*
  • Child
  • Environment Design*
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pediatric Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quebec / epidemiology
  • Residence Characteristics*