Environments can be designed to promote particular behaviors. Neighbourhoods with pleasant walking and cycling routes, local social events, and nearby schools, shops, and workplaces encourage walking and cycling. Local, easily accessible shops, with affordable fresh fruit, vegetables, and healthy food increase the likelihood that people will have good diets.
Neighbourhoods divided by busy roads filled with noisy, polluting vehicles which feel dangerous and uncomfortable discourage walking and cycling. Cheap local fast food and grocery shops that only sell carbonated sugary drinks and highly processed foods are likely to result in people having poor diets.
Health, therefore, is often directly influenced by surroundings. Obesogenic environments refer to environments that discourage exercise and encourage poor diets leading to obesity. Obesity has become a modern epidemic with conventional cures related to education, awareness, and medicine only achieving limited success.
Reducing obesity, therefore, requires proactive environmental strategies that influence behavior. This must include achieving minimum requirements that ensure walking and cycling is pleasant and safe. It must also include standards on the retailing of food to ensure healthy food is easy to access and is affordable. These standards have been developed in criteria used to measure the sustainability of neighborhoods in the Built Environment Sustainability Tool (BEST).