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Last Updated: Friday, 18 March, 2005, 08:32 GMT
Team designs outdoor play areas
Children playing hopscotch
The team wants to find ways to encourage children to play outdoors
Researchers at the University of the West of England are to use design techniques to reduce childhood obesity.

The team is to focus on developing outdoor spaces that encourage regular play and physical activity.

One of the biggest public health challenges in the 21st Century is growing obesity in children.

Professor Lamine Mahdjoubi said: "It is crucial to identify the barriers to outdoor play and to find effective ways of surmounting these barriers."

Professor Mahdjoubi, from UWE's faculty of the built environment, is co-ordinating a team from a wide variety of professions, including architects, landscape designers, traffic engineers, community safety experts, and child psychologists.

'Healthy environments'

The team will ensure that the designs for public open spaces integrate the elements vital to encourage children and adolescents to play in safety.

Professor Mahdjoubi said: "We are going to explore the potential of creative design in outdoor public spaces to promote healthy and inclusive environments for the young people of the 21st Century.

"We will be conducting questionnaires at three schools, holding workshops, and taking into account differences in the activity needs of boys and girls.

"We also hope to extend the study to look at the impact of crime, transport issues, and the placing of play spaces near to other amenities."

By 2002, levels of obesity in the UK had risen to about one in 20 boys (5.5%) and one in fifteen girls (7.2%), according to a report in the British Medical Journal.

The project is being funded by 51,000 from Designing for the 21st Century, a joint initiative of the Arts and Humanities Research Board and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

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