The design of our cities and towns may have a major impact on our health and well-being. As diseases such as obesity and diabetes rise to epidemic levels in the United States, what strategies are both health professionals and community development practitioners using to combat these health concerns? How does urban design impact the levels of these diseases in the US?
Jay Walljasper, a guest writer for Project for Public Spaces, recently uncovered a “new drug” doctors are prescribing to treat or even prevent these health concerns, an activity community development practitioners should focus their attention on.
Walljasper interviewed Bob Sallis, a leader from the National Walking Summit which took place in D.C. a few months ago, to discover why walking is the “new wonder drug.” Sallis discussed three factors that make walking the best treatment: “1) Low or no cost; 2) Simple to do for people of all ages, incomes, and fitness levels, and 3) Walking is Americans’ favorite physical activity.” Sallis’ reasoning seems straightforward but why are doctors prescribing walking now? Walking may be one of the oldest activities known to human-kind, so I should be able to walk to work or walk to my favorite shop.
Well, a problem is that many regions across the U.S. are not designed to promote physical activity like walking. If we want to use walking as a treatment or prevention for epidemics such as obesity and physical inactivity, then the places we live in must make walking easier. As we know, the built environment of an area influences the way people live. We believe that cities should be built to encourage walking, which will ultimately make us happier and healthier.
White Flint’s current design is focused on the car, preventing pedestrians from having a safe and secure space to walk. The White Flint Sector Plan is designed to encourage healthier living by promoting walkable spaces. Walking may be the best “new” treatment but our towns and cities must foster the ability to walk for this treatment to be successful.
Read Walljasper’s full article here.