The built environment and child obesity: A review of Australian policies

Anna Henry, Leanne Fried, Andrea Nathan, Gursimran Dhamrait, Bryan Boruff, Jasper Schipperijn, Donna Cross, Ben Beck, Gina Trapp, Hayley Christian

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Child obesity is a serious public health challenge affected by both individual choice and societal and environmental factors. The main modifiable risk factors for child obesity are unhealthy eating and low levels of physical activity, both influenced by aspects of the built environment. Coordinated government policy across jurisdictions, developed using strong research evidence, can enable built environments that better support healthy lifestyles. This study reviewed current Australian and Western Australian government policies to understand if and how they address the impact of the built environment on child obesity, physical activity, sedentary behavior, and diet. Current government policy documents related to the built environment and child health were analyzed using the Comprehensive Analysis of Policy on Physical Activity framework. Ten Australian and 31 Western Australian government policy documents were identified. Most referred to the role of the built environment in supporting physical activity. Very few policies mentioned the built environment's role in reducing sedentary behaviors, supporting healthy eating, and addressing obesity. Few recognized the needs of children, and none mentioned children in policy development. Future government policy development should include the voices of children and child-specific built environment features. Inter-organizational policies with transparent implementation and evaluation plans are recommended.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13650
JournalObesity Reviews
Issue number1
Early online date7 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024

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