عنوان مقاله [English]
The city and its urban spaces play a dominant role in the citizens’ quality of life by having significant impact on their physical and mental health. Nowadays noncommunicable diseases like heart and coronary diseases, high blood pressure and diabetes are major. Many physicians believe that recent changes in lifestyle to sedentary living, unhealthy eating habits and car dependency are the main causes of obesity and the prevalence of these diseases. These illnesses are exacerbated by cities environmental conditions. Current urban spaces create many barriers for pedestrians, making them less active besides limiting their access to healthy food. On one hand narrow sidewalks and car-oriented neighborhoods make people less active and more car dependent, on the other hand increasing amount of fast food restaurants and chain stores are wiping away healthy food outlets such as supermarkets and fruit stores, encouraging access to unhealthy food.
Earlier studies reveal the link between obesity and many factors such as individual, socio-economic and also built environment. So far the majority of research efforts have been performed in health sciences which focus on non-spatial determinants of obesity, it is only in recent years that the impact of urban spaces on obesity is being reflected. In the field of urban design, research is concentrated on activity-friendly urban spaces without considering the impact of food outlets providing variety of choices in urban spaces and their effects on people’s obesity. In this field domestic research efforts are very limited and incomplete. As a result it is necessary to conduct a study on the physical features of urban spaces influencing obesity with a holistic approach.
This study aims to review and explore the current literature on the physical aspect of urban spaces in relation to physical health focusing on obesity and two health related behaviors: physical activity and diet of the adult population ranging from 18 to 65 years old. This study tries to start a dialogue for an interdisciplinary research field which incorporates health and medicine sciences on one side, and the built environment related disciplines such as urban design and planning, architecture and transportation on the other side. The proposed subject is emerging and novel in Iran, so this study reviews the literature from two distinct disciplines of medicine and urban design by exploring valid and reliable empirical studies related to obesity and the built environment.
The findings from reviewed papers are presented in a proposed conceptual framework which determines the relationships between physical features of urban spaces and obesity, physical activity and diet of adults. The proposed framework is based on a behavior model of environment which defines urban spaces as 3 different types of behavior settings for pedestrian movement including 1-origins or destinations of walking/cycling trips, 2-the route between origin and destination, 3-areas around the origin and destination which contains a network of urban spaces.
The research findings show that some physical features of urban spaces as origindestination, route or area are related to physical activity or diet and consequently obesity.
Urban Spaces as origins or destinations of physical activity or eating behaviors, like parks, daily uses and services: grocery stores, banks, and supermarkets can encourage healthy lifestyle. Urban spaces as route emphasis on the presence of physical activity facilities like walking or bicycling routes that can encourage activity. A network of urban Spaces as an area has some physical features like permeability of street layout and social environment (seeing active people) which can inspire people for healthy lifestyle.
There are some common features of urban spaces as origin/destination that influence physical activity or diet, like accessibility of physical activity destinations for recreation or utilitarian, purposes also availability and accessibility of food outlets. Mix of uses is a common feature of urban spaces as origin/destination that can encourage the livability of urban spaces and consequently the presence of pedestrians. Visual characteristics and aesthetics of urban spaces as a route and also as an area increase the pleasurability and appeal of these spaces which can influence people’s walking or cycling. Pedestrian safety from traffic, security from crime, and perception of weather conditions are characteristics of urban spaces that are common in all of categories and are related to people’s behavior of walking.
This study concludes that health is a key element in designing urban spaces; therefore interdisciplinary research focusing on the environmental and spatial aspects of health should be promoted. Because this emerging field is little-explored in Iran’s urban design current literature, such studies provide preliminary basis for empirical studies of healthrelated issues in urban context, and also as a baseline to develop practical guides for successful and effective policies and practices.