Prioritizing Obesity in the City

Abstract

A decade ago, the World Health Organization declared obesity to be a global epidemic. Accordingly, there is a growing body of research examining how “obesogenic environments” contribute to the increasing prevalence of obesity. Using the ANGELO Framework, this research explores the role of municipal policies and practices in constructing obesogenic environments in two Southern Ontario cities in order to examine how socio-cultural and political environments shape excess body weight. Data was collected from municipal policy documents, public health websites, and key informants in Hamilton and Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. Results indicate that while the cities took different approaches to dealing with obesity, they both reflected the cities' overall prioritizing of health. Additionally, the findings reveal the pervasiveness of values and attitudes held in the socio-cultural environment in further shaping (and being shaped by) political as well as economic and physical environments in the cities. The importance of explicitly acknowledging the official discourse of the city, which this study demonstrates to be a significant factor in constructing obesogenic environments, is highlighted. Theoretical contributions and policy implications are also discussed.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to extend our appreciation to the key informants who took part in this study. This research was financially supported through ancillary funding from the Canadian Heart Health Surveys Follow Up Study (Canadian Institutes for Health Research and Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada), and Jennifer was additionally supported through a Doctoral Fellowship from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (No. 752-2009-1170 03).

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Correspondence to Jennifer Asanin Dean.

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Dean, J.A., Elliott, S.J. Prioritizing Obesity in the City. J Urban Health 89, 196–213 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11524-011-9620-3

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Keywords

  • Obesity
  • Environmental determinants
  • ANGELO Framework
  • Municipal priorities
  • Socio-cultural factors
  • Political factors