A healthy community provides opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to engage in routine daily physical activity in a safe environment, be it walking to a transit stop or school, commuting by bicycle to work, or playing in a neighborhood park. Healthy communities are also supported by food environments that ensure access to healthy foods, and make healthy eating the more accessible and more appealing option. Cities, counties, and school districts play key roles in the creation and support of healthy communities. Local government leaders have the unique ability to convene key decision-makers, enable information flow and collaboration, promote important community issues, and establish policies that create environments in which children and their families have healthy choices.
Encouraging healthy choices is critical because America is in the midst of an obesity epidemic impacting our quality of life and economy. According to U.S. Surgeon General’s Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation 2010, two-thirds of adults and nearly one in three children are overweight or obese, and the prevalence of obesity in the U.S. more than doubled (from 15% to 34%) among adults and more than tripled (from 5% to 17%) among children and adolescents from 1980 to 2008.
Obesity does not just affect our physical health but also impacts our pocketbooks. National health care costs for treating obesity-related illness are as high as $149 billion per year, according to a report released by the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion in August 2010.
Local governments can encourage individuals to be more physically active and thus improve health by establishing and providing:
Government leaders can take action to provide a healthy food environment by encouraging:
The Local Government Commission supports cities, counties, and school districts that want to create healthier communities through a variety of initiatives.
Health is related to many aspects of community design. Please select from the topics on the right to learn more.