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Relationships between ‘Wellness Centre’ use, the surrounding built environment and obesogenic behaviours, Sunderland, UK
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Dr Tim Townshend
Townshend TG, Lake AA
Journal of Urban Design
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A growing body of evidence suggests that the built environment influences people's propensity to lead (un)healthy lifestyles. Researchers have suggested that some environments may promote sedentary lifestyles, while providing access to large amounts of energy dense foods and as such these have been labelled ‘obesogenic’. Further, the concept of ‘environmental justice’ has been used to explain the disproportionate exposure to harmful environments by poorer communities. The complex dynamics of how individuals interact with the built environment, in terms of physical activity and eating behaviours, however, is still little understood. This paper is based on a pilot study which explored the use and location of six ‘Wellness Centres’ in Sunderland—a post-industrial city in the North East of England with high deprivation rates and a poor health profile. Although a small study, the research suggests that there were links between the type of neighbourhood and the life styles displayed by the Centre users. It proposes that the seemingly more active lifestyles of the inner-city residents accompanied by lower mean BMIs, suggests that some neighbourhoods are more supportive of known aspects of healthy lifestyles than others and, furthermore, these relationships are not directly related to socio-economic status.
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