Healthy cities: public health and urban planning
December 31, 2013 8:53 PM Subscribe
posted by gingerbeer (52 comments total)
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A new Report on the State of Health + Urbanism
(pdf) from MIT
looks at the relationship between urban planning and public health, with some surprising findings. The cities covered are Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Minneapolis, New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.Q. What did you learn from undertaking this project?
A. The number one thing I’ve learned is: You cannot prove causality easily, because the issue is so complex. If someone says to you that suburbanites are heavier because they drive more, it’s not been proven true. The studies [on this] are actually fairly soft. If you look at these eight cities, 83 percent of the suburban counties ranked healthier than their central city, using widely accepted health-risk factors. Some public health officials believe that proximity to medical facilities always leads to better public health, but when you start mapping those cities — Houston, for example — some of the worst health is in neighborhoods near the highest density of medical facilities.
Also, the idea of the food desert is largely fiction. There’s access to decent food pretty much across the metropolitan areas. In our cities the proximity to fast food doesn’t directly lead to poor urban health; there’s proximity to fast food everywhere. The question is how you get people to choose the right foods. These are all opportunities for us to build the knowledge base.