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Prev Med. 2004 Jan;38(1):57-63.

Neighborhood playgrounds, fast food restaurants, and crime: relationships to overweight in low-income preschool children.

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Division of General and Community Pediatrics, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH 45229-3039, USA.



We examined the relationship between overweight in preschool children and three environmental factors--the proximity of the children's residences to playgrounds and to fast food restaurants and the safety of the children's neighborhoods. We hypothesized that children who lived farther from playgrounds, closer to fast food restaurants, and in unsafe neighborhoods were more likely to be overweight.


This was a cross-sectional study of 7,020 low-income children, 36 through 59 months of age living in Cincinnati, OH. Overweight was defined as a measured body mass index > or =95th percentile. The distance between each child's residence and the nearest public playground and fast food restaurant was determined with geographic information systems. Neighborhood safety was defined by the number of police-reported crimes per 1,000 residents per year in each of 46 city neighborhoods.


Overall, 9.2% of the children were overweight, 76% black, and 23% white. The mean (+/- SD) distances from a child's home to the nearest playground and fast food restaurant were 0.31 (+/- 0.22) and 0.70 (+/- 0.38) miles, respectively. There was no association between child overweight and proximity to playgrounds, proximity to fast food restaurants, or level of neighborhood crime. The association between child overweight and playground proximity did not differ by neighborhood crime level.


Within a population of urban low-income preschoolers, overweight was not associated with proximity to playgrounds and fast food restaurants or with the level of neighborhood crime.

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