27 May 2009

Bridging the gap between design and health

The American Academy of Pediatrics came out with an important policy statement yesterday reaffirming the critically important role that design plays in the health of youngsters. They do a good job of pointing out a variety of landscape patterns that contribute to the problem, from school siting to unsafe streets to dead-end neighborhoods:
An estimated 32% of American children are overweight, and physical inactivity contributes to this high prevalence of overweight. This policy statement highlights how the built environment of a community affects children's opportunities for physical activity. Neighborhoods and communities can provide opportunities for recreational physical activity with parks and open spaces, and policies must support this capacity. Children can engage in physical activity as a part of their daily lives, such as on their travel to school. Factors such as school location have played a significant role in the decreased rates of walking to school, and changes in policy may help to increase the number of children who are able to walk to school. Environment modification that addresses risks associated with automobile traffic is likely to be conducive to more walking and biking among children. Actions that reduce parental perception and fear of crime may promote outdoor physical activity. Policies that promote more active lifestyles among children and adolescents will enable them to achieve the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity. By working with community partners, pediatricians can participate in establishing communities designed for activity and health.
The statement is accompanied by a graphic from DPZ illustrating the role of neighborhood design in walkability. The ASLA has already responded with a supporting comment that urges strong support of Complete Streets legislation.

The American Society of Landscape Architects applauds the addition of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to the growing chorus of advocates recognizing the connections between human health and the design of our built world. Outdoor spaces that encourage physical activity, increase human interaction and offer beautiful, secure environments increase our physical and mental health.
In the meantime, take a kid to a playground and in just 30 years they'll tell their therapist that they wish they could thank you.

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