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Local Spatial Analysis and Dynamic Simulation of Childhood Obesity and Neighbourhood Walkability in a Major Canadian City

1 Health Services Research & Evaluation, Alberta Health Services, 2430 Southport Atrium, 10101 Southport Road SW, Calgary, AB, Canada, T2W 3N2;
2 Department of Geography, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, AB, Canada, T2N 1N4

Special Issues: Spatial Aspects of Health: Methods and Applications

Body weight is an important indicator of current and future health and it is even more critical in children, who are tomorrow’s adults. This paper analyzes the relationship between childhood obesity and neighbourhood walkability in Calgary, Canada. A multivariate analytical framework recognizes that childhood obesity is also associated with many factors, including socioeconomic status, foodscapes, and environmental factors, as well as less measurable factors, such as individual preferences, that could not be included in this analysis. In contrast with more conventional global analysis, this research employs localized analysis and assesses need-based interventions. The one-size-fit-all strategy may not effectively control obesity rates, since each neighbourhood has unique characteristics that need to be addressed individually. This paper presents an innovative framework combining local analysis with simulation modeling to analyze childhood obesity. Spatial models generally do not deal with simulation over time, making it cumbersome for health planners and policy makers to effectively design and implement interventions and to quantify their impact over time. This research fills this gap by integrating geographically weighted regression (GWR), which identifies vulnerable neighbourhoods and critical factors for childhood obesity, with simulation modeling, which evaluates the impact of the suggested interventions on the targeted neighbourhoods. Neighbourhood walkability was chosen as a potential target for localized interventions, owing to the crucial role of walking in developing a healthy lifestyle, as well as because increasing walkability is relatively more feasible and less expensive then modifying other factors, such as income. Simulation results suggest that local walkability interventions can achieve measurable declines in childhood obesity rates. The results are encouraging, as improvements are likely to compound over time. The results demonstrate that the integration of GWR and simulation modeling is effective, and the proposed framework can assist in designing local interventions to control and prevent childhood obesity.
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