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Global cities and cultural diversity: challenges and opportunities for young people’s nutrition

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Seeromanie Harding, Christelle Elia, Peiyuan Huang, Chelsea Atherton, Kyla Covey, Gemma O'Donnell, Elizabeth Cole, Manal Almughamisi, Ursula M. Read, Alexandru Dregan, Trevor George, Ingrid Wolfe, J. Kennedy Cruickshank, Maria Maynard, Louise M. Goff, Majella O'Keeffe

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)456-469
Number of pages14
JournalProceedings of the Nutrition Society
Issue number4
Early online date27 Sep 2018
Accepted/In press18 Jun 2018
E-pub ahead of print27 Sep 2018
PublishedNov 2018


King's Authors


Childhood obesity is a common concern across global cities and threatens sustainable urban development. Initiatives to improve nutrition and encourage physical exercise are promising but are yet to exert significant influence on prevention. Childhood obesity in London is associated with distinct ethnic and socio-economic patterns. Ethnic inequalities in health-related behaviour endure, underpinned by inequalities in employment, housing, access to welfare services, and discrimination. Addressing these growing concerns requires a clearer understanding of the socio-cultural, environmental and economic contexts of urban living that promote obesity. We explore opportunities for prevention using asset based-approaches to nutritional health and well-being, with a particular focus on adolescents from diverse ethnic backgrounds living in London. We focus on the important role that community engagement and multi-sectoral partnership play in improving the nutritional outcomes of London’s children.

London’s children and adolescents grow up in the rich cultural mix of a global city where local streets are characterised by diversity in ethnicities, languages, religions, foods, and customs, creating complex and fluid identities. Growing up with such everyday diversity we argue can enhance the quality of life for London’s children, and strengthen their social capital. The Determinants of young Adult Social well-being and Health longitudinal study of ~6,500 of London’s young people demonstrated the positive impact of cultural diversity. Born to parents from over 100 countries and exposed to multi-lingual households and religious practices, they demonstrated strong psychological resilience and sense of pride from cultural straddling, despite material disadvantage and discrimination. Supporting the potential contribution of such socio-cultural assets is in keeping with values of social justice and equitable and sustainable development. Our work signals the importance of community engagement and multisectoral partnerships, involving, for example, schools and faith-based organisations, to improve the nutrition of London’s children.

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