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Could Urban Planning Reduce Childhood Obesity? Could Urban Planning Reduce Childhood Obesity?

Could Urban Planning Reduce Childhood Obesity?

by Kyla Fullenwider
February 18, 2010
In the 19th and 20th century architects, urban thinkers and landscape architects like Fredrick Law Olmsted designed our cities and neighborhoods to address infectious diseases and even mental health issues, something that is more or less taken for granted in our era of flushing toilets and garbage removal. Before Prozac, a walk in nature (perhaps in one of Olmsted's parks) was not an uncommon prescription for someone suffering from depression. It still may be. Recent studies have confirmed what we already knew: nature is really good for us…And if you are in the city (like many of us are these days) a walk in the park might be the best thing you can do for your health– and it may be the best tool in our First Lady's new assault on childhood obesity.Michelle Obama's new campaign Let's Move couldn't have come at a better time. With childhood obesity rates tripling in the last 30 years it's fair to say it's an epidemic. And a systemic problem that must include more than bigger picture thinking– like how the built environment impacts our daily habits, like walking to school.Some people have already started thinking about how urban planning can impact public health and specifically, childhood obesity. Over at City Fix Megan McConville points out that if our neighborhoods and streets aren't walkable then we can hardly expect our kids to get off the couch. And in New York (where city innovation seems to be happening at a breakneck speed) the Bloomberg Administration may be one step ahead of the White House– quite literally. The city's Active Design Guide is leveraging good design to get New Yorkers moving. From their introduction:"active design is critical to addressing obesity and its related diseases-the fastest growing epidemics of our time, while also supporting sustainability"The program aims to design more walkable and bikeable neighborhoods while promoting more activity where we live, work and play. This is exactly the kind of thinking that could result in real, tangible change. Let's hope the White House is paying attention.Photo (cc) by Flickr user loop_ohThis post originally appeared on www.refresheverything.com, as part of GOOD's collaboration with the Pepsi Refresh Project, a catalyst for world-changing ideas. Find out more about the Refresh campaign, or to submit your own idea today.
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