Perceived Neighborhood Safety Linked to Child Obesity

Parents who believe neighborhoods unsafe are 4.4 times as likely to have obese children

MONDAY, Jan. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Parents who believe their neighborhoods are unsafe are more likely to have obese children, most likely because they are hesitant to allow their kids to play outside, according to a report in the January issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

Julie C. Lumeng, M.D., from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues asked the parents of 768 seven-year-old children about their perception of the safety of their neighborhoods, and assessed the correlation with the children's body mass index.

After adjusting for many other variables independently associated with child obesity, the researchers found those children living in the lowest quartile of perceived neighborhood safety were 4.4 times more likely to be overweight than those living in the highest quartile.

"Public health efforts may benefit from policies directed toward improving both actual and perceived neighborhood safety," the authors conclude. "For the individual physician, these results suggest the need to understand the character of a child's neighborhood when making recommendations for lifestyle and activity changes aimed at obesity prevention and treatment."

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