Computer models to tackle childhood obesity problem

Everyone agrees childhood obesity is a problem. What to do about it? More bike paths? A soda tax? Family dinners?

IBM is hoping it can help ferret out some answers, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal. It will put computer models to work analyzing the reams of available data on the different factors that might affect obesity, things such as consumer behavior, the location of grocery stores, the availability of physical activity facilities and even community transportation options.

“When you take a look at obesity, at first blush it’s about how much you eat and how much you exercise,” Paul Maglio, a research scientist at IBM’s Almaden, Cal.

By running computer simulations, the scientists hope to bring policymakers some guidance on which levers to pull to most effectively influence obesity. For example, the models might answer the question of whether it’s best for a given community to put resources towards more P.E. classes or to build a new park.

The project will take place over the next year or so.

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