Neighborhood Walkability, Historical Redlining, and Childhood Obesity in Denver, Colorado

Katharina Kowalski, Jeremy Auerbach, Sheena E. Martenies, Anne P. Starling, Brianna Moore, Dana Dabelea, Sheryl Magzamen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Childhood obesity is a precursor to future health complications. In adults, neighborhood walkability is inversely associated with obesity prevalence. Recently, it has been shown that current urban walkability has been influenced by historical discriminatory neighborhood disinvestment. However, the relationship between this systemic racism and obesity has not been extensively studied. The objective of this study was to evaluate the association of neighborhood walkability and redlining, a historical practice of denying home loans to communities of color, with childhood obesity. We evaluated neighborhood walkability and walkable destinations for 250 participants of the Healthy Start cohort, based in the Denver metropolitan region. Eligible participants attended an examination between ages 4 and 8. Walkable destinations and redlining geolocations were determined based on residential addresses, and a weighting system for destination types was developed. Sidewalks and trails in Denver were included in the network analyst tool in ArcMap to calculate the precise walkable environment for each child. We implemented linear regression models to estimate associations between neighborhood characteristics and child body mass index (BMI) z-scores and fat mass percent. There was a significant association between child BMI and redlining (β: 1.36, 95% CI: 0.106, 2.620). We did not find an association between walkability measures and childhood obesity outcomes. We propose that cities such as Denver pursue built environment policies, such as inclusionary zoning and direct investments in neighborhoods that have been historically neglected, to reduce the childhood health impacts of segregated poverty, and suggest further studies on the influences that redlining and urban built environment factors have on childhood obesity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-117
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Urban Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2023


  • Built environment
  • Equity
  • GIS
  • Obesity
  • Pediatric
  • Redlining
  • Walkability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Urban Studies
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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