Conference paper

Weight centrism in research on children’s active transport – time for a paradigm shift

Active transport Child health Discrimination Physical activity

This paper explains the concept of weight-centrism, including the science that questions the link between weight and disease. Using a review of 112 studies on children’s active school transport, it explores and problematises expressions of weight-centrism in urbanism research.

Weight-bias is defined as negative weight-related attitudes and assumptions toward individuals who exceed the normal range of body mass index. Its harmful impact on the mental and physical health of the population is well documented. Examples of weight-bias abound in cultural contexts, with people in larger bodies regularly shamed by an unforgiving social narrative. The presence of weight-bias in research, including research linking the built environment to health outcomes, is more subtle. It is propagated by a weight-centric approach to research design which promotes the prevention of weight gain at all costs, contrary to scientific evidence suggesting the need to decouple health from weight.

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