The association between the geography of fast food outlets and childhood obesity rates in Leeds, UK

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Objective:To analyse the association between childhood overweight and obesity and the density and proximity of fast food outlets in relation to the child’s residential postcode.Design:This was an observational study using individual level height/weight data and geographic information systems methodology.Setting:Leeds in West Yorkshire, UK. This area consists of 476 lower super-output areas.Participants:Children aged 3–14 years who lived within the Leeds metropolitan boundaries (n=33,594).Main outcome measures:The number of fast food outlets per area and the distance to the nearest fast food outlet from the child’s home address. The weight status of the child: overweight, obese or neither.Results:27.1% of the children were overweight or obese with 12.6% classified as obese. There is a significant positive correlation (p<0.001) between density of fast food outlets and higher deprivation. A higher density of fast food outlets was significantly associated (p=0.02) with the child being obese (or overweight/obese) in the generalised estimating equation model which also included sex, age and deprivation. No significant association between distance to the nearest fast food outlet and overweight or obese status was found.Conclusions:There is a positive relationship between the density of fast food outlets per area and the obesity status of children in Leeds. There is also a significant association between fast food outlet density and areas of higher deprivation.

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