Giving Compass' Take:

• Smithsonian reports that the University of Washington is using satellite imagery to gather data regarding the relationship between obesity and cityscapes, while investigating how the environment affects human behavior. 

• What can those in the healthcare sector due to address unhealthy habits in general, and how might such work be boosted by better data through technology?

• Here are some donor strategies to prevent childhood obesity.

About 40 percent of American adults are obese, defined as having a body mass index (BMI) over 30. But obesity is not evenly distributed around the country. Some cities and states have far more obese residents than others. Why? Genetics, stress, income levels and access to healthy foods are play a role. But increasingly researchers are looking at the built environment — our cities — to understand why people are fatter in some places than in others.

New research from the University of Washington attempts to take this approach one step further by using satellite data to examine cityscapes. By using the satellite images in conjunction with obesity data, they hope to uncover which urban features might influence a city’s obesity rate.

The researchers used a deep learning network to analyze about 150,000 high-resolution satellite image of four cities: Los Angeles, Memphis, San Antonio and Seattle. The cities were selected for being from states with both high obesity rates (Texas and Tennessee) and low obesity rates (California and Washington). The network extracted features of the built environment: crosswalks, parks, gyms, bus stops, fast food restaurants—anything that might be relevant to health.

“If there’s no sidewalk you’re less likely to go out walking,” says Elaine Nsoesie, a professor of global health at the University of Washington who led the research.

Read the full article about satellite imagery and obesity by Emily Matchar at Smithsonian Magazine.