Obesogenic Built Environment

Concepts and complexities

Authored by: Tim Townshend , Rachel Gallo , Amelia A. Lake

The Routledge Handbook Of Planning For Health And Well-Being

Print publication date:  June  2015
Online publication date:  May  2015

Print ISBN: 9781138023307
eBook ISBN: 9781315728261
Adobe ISBN: 9781317542407


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Obesity is an issue of global concern. Obesity rates have risen rapidly in the recent past with an associated increase in a number of related serious health conditions. While the basic equation behind human obesity seems simple – too much energy consumed, too little energy expended – the causes are complex and multifactorial, including biological, psychological, sociological and economic influences. Swinburn et al. (1999) coined the term ‘obesogenic environment’ as the ‘sum of influences, opportunities, or conditions of life’ that promote obesity in individuals or populations, an all-encompassing concept that includes the built environment. While establishing causal pathways between the built environment and obesity has been notoriously difficult, the Foresight report (2007) suggested there was enough expert evidence to implicate the built environment in the obesity crisis – calling for greater consideration of the issue in urban planning.

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