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It’s time we paved a healthier path of least resistance
  1. Jessica A Renzella1,
  2. Alessandro R Demaio2,3
  1. 1 Nuffield Department of Population Health, Centre on Population Approaches for Non-Communicable Disease Prevention, University of Oxford, Oxford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom
  2. 2 Nutrition for Health and Development, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland
  3. 3 Honorary Fellow, Melbourne School of Population & Global Health, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Alessandro R Demaio, Nutrition for Health and Development, World Health Organisation, Geneva 1201, Switzerland; demaioa{at}

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Inspiring and retaining interest, investment and action to prevent tomorrow’s health threats today is notoriously difficult. This is particularly true when the resulting future well-being may not be realised for years, or even decades. The outcome is a lack of political and societal prioritisation for disease prevention, accompanied by a pernicious rise in avoidable health burden.

Obesity is now the biological, environmental and social path of least resistance in most societies. Despite being entirely avoidable, an estimated 1.9 billion adults and 41 million children under 5 years are overweight, worldwide.1 2 Addressing the drivers of obesity through evidence-based structural and political responses is key, yet such action largely continues to evade us.

But what if we could shape obesity solutions as rapidly as we build our cities? What if our cities could make achieving and maintaining healthy weight easier?

Our cities are not designed for health

For the first time in history, more than half of the global population lives in cities, and almost four in every ten adults are overweight or obese.1 3 With obesity and urbanisation on the rise, the built environments in which people work, live, eat and move are increasingly recognised to have a …

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Author note ARD is a staff member of the WHO in Geneva. He alone is responsible for any views expressed in this publication, and they do not necessarily represent the decisions or policies of any third party.