EconPapers: Fat City: The Relationship Between Urban Sprawl and Obesity
Fat city: Questioning the relationship between urban sprawl and obesity. J Eid, HG Overman, D Puga, MA Turner. Journal of Urban Economics 63 (2), We study the relationship between urban sprawl and obesity. Using data that tracks individuals over time, we find no evidence that urban sprawl causes obesity. Journal of Urban Economics 63 () – btcmu.info Fat city: Questioning the relationship between urban sprawl and obesity Jean Eid.
As expected, the authors found residents of more sprawling neighbourhoods are indeed heavier on average than people who live in less sprawling neighbourhoods although they found this applied to men but not women. However their results strongly suggest urban sprawl does not cause weight gain: Rather, people who are more likely to be obese e. Of course the built environment may still place constraints on the type of exercise that people are able to take or the nature of the diet that they consume.
The key point is that individuals who have a lower propensity to being obese will choose to avoid those kinds of neighborhoods. Overall, we find no evidence that neighborhood characteristics have any causal effect on weight. Observers of Australian cities who argue that density and walkability affect obesity usually compare the inner city with the suburbs e.
But the two populations are not the same. For example, compared to suburban populations, inner city residents are more likely to be young, single, have no dependants, have a higher level of education and enjoy a higher income. The authors of the article are aware their conclusions contradict the received wisdom on the connection between sprawl and obesity. However they point out their findings are consistent with other studies showing that sorting rather than causation is the primary mechanism that drives observed differences within cities on many socioeconomic variables.
This included a "fat drive," in which participants pledged to lose weight; the result was a collective loss of 17, pounds 7, kilograms by 2, participants.
Again, a range of different organizations took part.
Perhaps most notable was McDonald's, an "official restaurant sponsor," which rolled out a "Salad and More" menu across all of its Houston-area restaurants. ByHouston could boast that it had dropped to second place, behind Detroit-the result, according to Men's Fitness, of better scores for sports participation, alcohol consumption, and nutrition.
Some of this may appear common sense. But this conversation about fat, and the metaphor of the Fat City, have also provoked renewed interest in the relationship between bodies and cities. For example, papers published in American Journal of Health Promotion and American Journal of Public Health in reported a series of studies that were among the first to "link shopping centers, lack of sidewalks and bike trails, and other features of urban sprawl to deadly health problems.
The geographer David Sui also wrote in that "Fat City depends on the fatness of the body And the fatness of the body depends on the fatness of the city, since it develops as a result of the automobile-dependent, privatized spaces of the fat city. People living in city environments-where healthy food and places to exercise are hard to find, the weather discourages exercise, smoking rates are high, long commutes steal exercise time, health care is poor, and junk food is easy to hand-are more likely to be fat.
This analysis has the effect of shifting the focus from the state of obesity in a city the current prevalence in the population to the structures and processes that lead to obesity.
Infrastructures The obsession with fat in the body and the prevalence of obesity in city populations misses the significance of fat within the city metabolism. The rise of the fast-food industry and the growing numbers of people dining out have had consequences for human and urban fat-processing systems alike, and there are ironic parallels between the metabolism of fat in human bodies and the capacity or incapacity of city waste systems to handle the increasing volumes of fat wastes.
Sewer blockages and overflows in cities across the United States are becoming more frequent because restaurants often pour cooking residue into drains and because local governments lack the resources to monitor grease disposal and enforce the relevant regulations.
Southerland notes that the U. Environmental Protection Agency in sued Los Angeles for 2, sewer spills over five years; 40 percent of them were caused by fat. For reasons that range from the decline in global markets for waste fat and the increased costs of fat disposal following Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's crackdown on the garbage mafia, more grease is illegally dumped into sewers, and trouble ensues.
Fat City: The Relationship Between Urban Sprawl and Obesity
Sewer rats love sewer fat; high protein builds their sex drive. Solids stick in fat. Sewage backs up into basements-or worse, the fat hardens, a chunk breaks off and rides down the pipe until it jams in the machinery of an underground floodgate. That, to use a more digestible metaphor, causes a municipal heart attack. While there are fat hotspots in and around city restaurant areas, there are also sewer fat problems in residential neighborhoods, particularly where large numbers of multi-family units are located and where residents discharge their grease into drains.
And in some cases attention is turning to schools and prisons.
Urban sprawl not cause of human sprawl
Just as with obesity, then, there are different distributions of sewer fat problems across different publics. As when doctors attempt to locate coronary occlusions, actually finding the hotspots in sewers remains a challenge for local authorities.
A variety of techniques has been developed, including closed-circuit television, smoke infrared thermography, and even radar and sonic sound technology. Having made fat visible, cities then face the problem of breaking it up. High-pressure hoses can remove blockages but dislodged blocks of fat may then cause new problems downstream.
Large vacuum trucks are also used to either suck or blow fat out of congested sewers. New York routinely uses an enzyme product that reduces grease build-up, and a liquid emulsifier can now tackle larger build-ups.
At least one other locale has experimented with a bacteria developed by a biotechnology company to metabolise the grease, breaking it apart into water, carbon dioxide, and free fatty acids, which can be washed away from metal, concrete, and brick. When a crisis hits, the problem becomes all too visible in sewer overflows.
Just like with bodies, prevention is more problematic.
Fat City | Worldwatch Institute
Ultimately cities want to keep fats out of the sewers, but making visible the practices of restaurants and households scattered throughout cities raises different challenges. New "lean sewer" ordinances have been introduced, but the cost of monitoring and enforcement is high.
Not surprisingly, then, we see also the emergence of appeals to the city collective once more to reshape the deposition of fat. The City needs businesses and individuals to do their part to maintain the system because repeated repairs are disruptive to residences and businesses alike. Strategic Responses This is just the barest account of the wider problems fat poses for cities.
Missing, for example, is the global system of oil and fat production, the international movement and distribution of fats and oils, the production and distribution of foods that incorporate fats and oils, and the social organization of waste oil and fat systems. All of these have interconnected social, economic, spatial, biochemical, and cultural dimensions. However, by touching upon some of these issues it becomes possible to bring into focus how different strategies for dealing with fat-at the level of the body, sewer, or city as a whole-view fat in quite different ways.
The apparently straightforward response to fat-especially if one's outlook is expressed in the disdainful images of unhealthy cities, corpulent bodies, and blocked sewers, which are taken to represent excess and greed-is simple. Be it bodies, sewers, or the whole city population: But this could be an endless battle, as sewer managers and public health specialists alike know all too well.
The obvious alternative is prevention. It is not just the overweight who ought to be anxious about fat, but also-as with any other worsening health problem-the general public, which must be made aware of and enticed into fitness and diet regimes, into life-long healthy lifestyles. Likewise with cities where there may be a window of opportunity to maintain infrastructure health, fitness, and leanness and thereby avert crisis. The Men's Fitness campaign has stimulated a renewed interesting in the "re-tooling of the urban environment" to activate bodies in order to ensure that fat remains mobile and that the opportunities for its deposition are limited.
As for the sewers, there has emerged a range of promotional strategies, guidelines, and ordinances designed to reduce the deposition of fat and use other waste infrastructures for fat disposal. There is an ironic twist here: A less obvious, but hardly ignored, alternative is simply tolerance.