PhD defence Famke Mölenberg
Changes in the environment cannot be studied like a drug. This thesis uses so-called “natural experiments”, sudden changes in the environment, to evaluate the effects of these changes in real-world settings. We found that play facilities near home makes it easier for children to play outside. The current fast food paradises where children grow up could be a barrier for healthy dietary behaviours. The hosting of international sport events may contribute to increasing sport participation levels in the population, and largest effects were found following the Grand Départ of the Tour de France. We also reviewed international evidence on smoke-free car policies, and found that these initiatives can considerably reduce the harmful effects of tobacco smoke exposure in children.
A healthy population starts by creating a healthy environment. We should shift our priorities from interventions primarily targeting behaviour of individuals, towards interventions targeting the environment to which individuals are exposed. We need to intervene in the environment to ensure that the healthy choice becomes the easy choice.