MassGeneral Hospital for Children News

Childhood obesity continues to be a major public health problem, and national trends indicate insufficient and declining levels of physical activity in children and adolscents. The design of buildings and neighborhoods, known collectively as the built environment, has the potential to influence physical activity.

Use of the Built Environment to Promote Physical Activity in Children

Research of Nicolas M. Oreskovic, MD, MPH

20/Dec/2011

Nicolas M. Oreskovic, MD, MPH

Nicolas M. Oreskovic, MD, MPH
Instructor in Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Internal Medicine & Pediatrics, Massachusetts General Hospital; MGH Center for Child and Adolescent Health Policy

Childhood obesity continues to be a major public health problem, and national trends indicate insufficient and declining levels of physical activity in children and adolscents. The design of buildings and neighborhoods, known collectively as the built environment, has the potential to influence physical activity.

Our research is focused on better understanding how youth use the built environment for physical activity, and to then test a strategy for increasing physical activity in children and adolescents by increasing their use of the built environment. This research uses cutting-edge technological tools including Geographic Information Systems (GIS), global positioning systems (GPS), and accelerometers to objectively determine where, and to what extent, children engage in physical activity in their neighborhoods, to assess for variations in built environment use by race/ethnicity, and then test whether applying this information in the office setting can enhance physical activity counseling to youth.

Classifying GPS data using GIS

This research acknowledges that complex multifactorial societal influences underly the current obesity epidemic and through collaborative cross-disciplinary research, seeks to identify novel approaches to physical activity and obesity research that bridge the design (architecture and urban planning) and health professions.

Selected Publications

Oreskovic NM, Sawicki GS, Kinane TB, Winickoff JP, Perrin JM. Travel patterns to school among children with asthma. Clinical Pediatrics. 2009 Jul;48(6):632-40.

Oreskovic NM, Kuhlthau KA, Romm D, Perrin JM. Built environment and weight disparities among children in high- and low-income towns. Academic Pediatrics. September-October, 2009; 9(5): 315-321.

Oreskovic NM, Winickoff JP, Kuhlthau KA, Romm D, Perrin JM. Obesity and the built environment among Massachusetts children. Clinical Pediatrics. November, 2009; 48(9): 904-912.

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