Active transport and obesity prevention: A transportation sector obesity impact scoping review and assessment for Melbourne, Australia
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Given the alarming prevalence of obesity worldwide and the need for interventions to halt the growing epidemic, more evidence on the role and impact of transport interventions for obesity prevention is required. This study conducts a scoping review of the current evidence of association between modes of transport (motor vehicle, walking, cycling and public transport) and obesity-related outcomes. Eleven reviews and thirty-three primary studies exploring associations between transport behaviours and obesity were identified. Cohort simulation Markov modelling was used to estimate the effects of body mass index (BMI) change on health outcomes and health care costs of diseases causally related to obesity in the Melbourne, Australia population. Results suggest that evidence for an obesity effect of transport behaviours is inconclusive (29% of published studies reported expected associations, 33% mixed associations), and any potential BMI effect is likely to be relatively small. Hypothetical scenario analyses suggest that active transport interventions may contribute small but significant obesity-related health benefits across populations (approximately 65 health adjusted life years gained per year). Therefore active transport interventions that are low cost and targeted to those most amenable to modal switch are the most likely to be effective and cost-effective from an obesity prevention perspective. The uncertain but potentially significant opportunity for health benefits warrants the collection of more and better quality evidence to fully understand the potential relationships between transport behaviours and obesity. Such evidence would contribute to the obesity prevention dialogue and inform policy across the transportation, health and environmental sectors.
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