Community design plays a role in obesity

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I would like to thank Jack Kelly and the Post-Gazette for the article on the obesity epidemic in America ("Obesity: It's a Growing Problem But Are We Doing Enough to Address It?" June 3). However, I would like to include an additional dimension to the obesity problem. It's not just our food consumption habits that are making us fat, but bad community design and an inability to invest in a healthy built environment that is lending to this crisis.

The obesity epidemic and all its negative impacts exist at the intersection of public health, transportation investment, community design and our food culture. Improved collaboration between these sectors and investing in safe, walkable neighborhoods can help us regain our waistlines, reduce health care costs and be more fiscally responsible both with our personal dollars and with public investments.

According to Dr. Richard Jackson of the UCLA School of Public Health and narrator of the "Designing Healthy Communities" documentary series, there's a close correspondence between obesity and unwalkable, car-dependent neighborhoods. People in these neighborhoods are likely to be more sedentary, heavier and less fit, a deadly combination that begins in childhood.

Civic leaders and individuals can all make better choices to help curtail the obesity crisis. As local government officials and state leaders wrestle with investment choices and budget decisions, they need to make choices that invest limited resources to help build places that are accessible and provide for a healthy environment. Meanwhile, civic leaders can encourage collaboration between sectors to work together. As individuals, when we make choices of where to live or work, consider if that place allows you to walk or take a short bike ride to the store or your next destination.

If we build and invest in our communities to be healthier and more active places, we can create better choices of where to live and work, instead of more choices at the buffet line or wrestling with the growing conundrum of which medicine to take first.

Regional Director
10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania



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