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Promoting physically active children in car-dependent NZ

April 24, 2014

Kids in the city: Promoting physically active children in car-dependent NZ

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of car ownership in the world and cities that are purpose-built for car travel. One of the consequences of our car dependency has been declining rates of physical activity, despite compelling evidence of its health benefits.

Professor Karen Witten will be presenting a lecture entitled Kids in the city: Neighbourhood design to encourage physically active children on May 7 as part of the Albany professorial lecture series. She is Professor of Public Health of the Social and Health Outcomes Research and Evaluation (SHORE) research centre at Massey University.

“Auckland is becoming a more compact city and we wanted to make sure children’s wellbeing was taken into consideration. There are almost 300,000 children living in Auckland,” she says.

Kids in the City is a study of 10-12 year old children’s use and experiences of Auckland neighbourhoods and was funded by the Health Research Council.

In the study 250 children living in different neighbourhood environments, from inner city apartment blocks to suburban settings, kept trip dairies and wore GPS and accelerometers for seven days to reveal where they go, how they move about the city and how active they are in different settings.

“I would like to see residential streets being designed as safe places for children to play and get about independently on foot, bike and scooter”.

Children’s levels of physical activity have dropped markedly in New Zealand over the past 20 years along with their opportunities to play and explore their neighbourhoods unsupervised. Over the same time period obesity rates have risen; the long term health impacts of inactivity and obesity are considerable as both track from childhood to adolescence to adulthood and are risk factors for chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some cancers.

Professor Witten says designing cities that encourage children to to be more active have wider benefits. “Neighbourhoods that work for children will work for people of all age groups. We need to shift from designing cities for cars to designing cities for people”.

Professor Witten’s presentation will illustrate the diversity of Auckland children’s neighbourhood experiences in relation to their mobility, play spaces, recreational opportunities and street encounters and highlight ideas for creating more “child friendly” neighbourhoods.

Event details:
Date: Wednesday May 7
Time: 6.30-8.30pm
Venue: Sir Neil Waters Lecture Theatres, Albany campus, Massey University
RSVP:; (09) 414 0800 extn: 43036

Please RSVP as seating is limited


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