Overweight, obesity, and inactivity and urban design in rapidly growing Chinese cities
China faces rising rates of overweight, obesity, and physical inactivity among its citizens. Risk is highest in China’s rapidly growing cities and urban populations. Current urban development practices and policies in China heighten this risk. These include policies that support decentralization in land use planning; practices of neighborhood gating; and policies and practices tied to motor vehicle travel, transit planning, and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. In this paper, we review cultural, political, and economic issues that influence overweight, obesity, and inactivity in China. We examine key urban planning features and policies that shape urban environments that may compromise physical activity as part of everyday life, including walking and bicycling. We review the empirical research to identify planning and design strategies that support physical activity in other high-density cities in developing and developed countries. Finally, we identify successful strategies to increase physical activity in another growing, high-density city – New York City – to suggest strategies that may have relevance for rapidly urbanizing Chinese cities.