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AI from space, Google Maps are helping researchers spot obesity on earth

According to the researchers, assessing an area's obesity rates may help city planners develop more green areas to help people remain more physically active

IANS  |  San Francisco 

Artificial intelligence from space can help spot obesity on Earth

In a novel method, researchers have used (AI) technology that scanned through Maps images to estimate on Earth -- even without actually spotting obese people.

The team lead by researchers from University of Washington, Seattle, downloaded nearly 150,000 high-resolution Map of select neighbourhoods in four cities - Los Angeles (California); Memphis (Tennessee); San Antonio (Texas) and (Washington State).

Data on prevalence were obtained from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention's "500 Cities" project, said the study appeared in the journal JAMA Network Open on Sunday.

The team then fed these images into a - aka AI -- that extracted features of the built environment - the distribution of buildings and green area.

"The extraction of built environment showed that physical characteristics of a neighbourhood (presence of parks, highways, green streets, crosswalks, diverse housing types) can be associated with variations in prevalence across different neighbourhoods," the researchers wrote.

Obesity has been linked to factors such as genetics, diet, physical activity and the environment.

However, evidence indicating associations between the built environment and obesity has varied across studies and geographical contexts.

The study illustrates that can be used to automate the extraction of features of the built environment from for studying health indicators.

"Understanding the association between specific features of the built environment and obesity prevalence can lead to structural changes that could encourage physical activity and decreases in obesity prevalence," said the researchers.

Behavioural traits that encourage and a sedentary lifestyle have been associated with features in the social and built environment.

The built environment can influence health through the availability of resources, such as housing, activity and recreational spaces, and measures of community design, the findings showed.

According to the researchers, assessing an area's obesity rates may help city planners develop more green areas to help people remain more physically active.

First Published: Tue, September 04 2018. 08:49 IST
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