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Frank 2006 - "Many Pathways from Land Use to Health"

Lawrence D. Frank, James F. Sallis, et al.
"Many Pathways from Land Use to Health"
Journal of the American Planning Association
72(1):75-87 (Winter 2006)
On the Web
Relevance: high

From the abstract: in King County neighborhoods and found that a 5% increase in walkability was associated with:

  • a per capita 32.1% increase in time spent in physical activity
  • 0.23 point reduction in average body mass index
  • 6.5% fewer vehicle miles traveled
  • 5.6% fewer grams of nitrogen oxides emitted
  • 5.5% fewer grams of volatile organic compounds emitted

See study for more details.


Soot n/a - "Are Sprawl and Obesity Related? Evidence from the Chicago Area"

Siim Soot, Lise Dirks, et al
"Are Sprawl and Obesity Related? Evidence from the Chicago Area"
Unpublished: Metropolitan Transportation Support Initiative (METSI) working paper 06-01
Relevance: medium
On the Web

The authors estimate the effect of urban, socio-economic, and personal characteristics on BMI using height, weight, and ZIP code data from 7 million driver's licenses and state IDs in greater Chicago. Their regression finds that population density has a slight but significant effect, dwarfed by other variables. I have many questions about their methodology, but nonetheless don't think they overturn the bulk of sprawl and obesity research.

More notes...


Plantinga 2005 - "A Spatial Economic Analysis of Urban Land Use and Obesity"

Plantinga, Andrew J and Bernell, Stephanie
"A Spatial Economic Analysis of Urban Land Use and Obesity"
Journal of Regional Science
August 2005, Vol 45, n.3, pp.473-492
relevance: medium
On the Web

The authors create a theoretical economic model of neighborhood choice and obesity. They basically argue that while obesity and sprawl are linked, it's ok because it's a conscious trade-off for a cheaper house, akin to the trade off with longer commute times.

Key sentences

  • "As such, residents are willing to accept the tradeoff of higher weight for more housing."
  • "In particular, low-density development should not be viewed as a cause of high obesity rates any more than it should be seen as a cause of higher commuting costs."

The paper is pretty technical and full of assumptions, many of which the authors need to verify empirically before moving on to further assumptions and their conclusions. Some quibbles include:

  • How could residents consciously choose house size over body size when the connection has been made only recently?
  • While people with a higher income may consume better quality food, they do not necessarily consume more total calories.

See Cascadia Scorecard weblog post