• Opportunities to integrate health considerations into other policies and programs can increase physical activity, sometimes at little or no extra public cost.

  • A shift away from the private automobile requires new planning tools, for example, a tool other than car counts for siting new businesses.


Tregoning emphasized how the built environment affects the public health in general and physical activity in particular (see Box 5-1). She distinguished between physical exercise (“something I make an appointment to do”) and physical activity (something incorporated into daily life), stressing that both have measurable benefits. As an example of the positive effects development can have on physical activity, Tregoning cited Atlantic Station, a mixed-use development in Atlanta built on the property of a former steel mill. People in Atlanta drive on average 33 miles a day; people who live and/or work in Atlantic Station drive on average only 8 to 10 miles a day.

Tregoning spoke about how planning can help combat obesity. Among a population of about 590,000, 54 percent of adults in Washington, DC, are overweight or obese, as are 22 percent of teens, the highest percentage

BOX 5-1

Impact of the Built Environment on Public Health

Harriet Tregoning, Director of Washington, DC, Office of Planning, cited five impacts that illustrate how the built environment affects public health:

  • In low-income neighborhoods, the likelihood of a person meeting daily nutritional guidelines increases by one-third if the neighborhood has a grocery store that sells healthy food.

  • Abundant fast food establishments, corner stores, and scarce grocery stores lead to more health problems than are seen in more balanced food environments.

  • People living in walkable, mixed-use communities are twice as likely to get the recommended 30 or more minutes per day of physical activity.

  • One-third of Americans who use public transit to get to work meet this recommendation.

  • People living within one-quarter mile of a park are 25 percent more likely to meet this recommendation.

SOURCE: Public Health Law & Policy, http://www.phlpnet.org.

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