The Built Environment’s Impact on Health

A few posts ago, I mentioned that Provo is the 8th least obese metro area in America. That’s a positive development that also leaves room for improvement.

But this article draws a connection between health and the built environment. I think most people intuitively understand that the buildings, roads, and other parts of a city have some sort of impact on residents’ well-being. But the article takes it a step further, arguing from the get-go that the “built environment is broken.”

Again, that may seem fairly obvious, when things like obesity and diabetes are typically described as reaching “epidemic” proportions. Indeed the article notes that

Dealing with diabetes now takes up 2 percent of the GDP of the country given that in many states almost 10 percent of the population has the disease. By 2050, that number is expected to grow to more than 20 percent. Obesity is another, well, big problem: In comparison with past generations, the average American is now 25 pounds heavier and the average kid, 14 pounds heavier. In some states, 30 percent of the population is severely obese.

Those stats actually blow my mind they’re so dire. But the article is really arguing that to diagnose and solve those problems it’s important to look at more than medicine, research, and health care. Instead, the actual physical make-up of cities — again, things like streets, sidewalks, stores, parks, and buildings — play a vital but oft-overlook role in health care. The article argues

Jackson believes that every school should have a garden and every community should have a farmer’s market. Walkable green spaces should be used to fight mental health issues. Kids should live in walkable, bikeable areas so they can further their own “autonomous development.” Moving up in scale, cities can create active design guidelines like New York City has, and states can even incorporate healthy community designs into their planning efforts.

The physical make-up of a city impacts the health of its citizens.

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Filed under building, environment, neighborhood

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