Designing Healthy Communities

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Health, Transportation and Land Use Are Connected

 

How we design our transportation systems and streets affects public health.

Health challenges are on the rise in our state, with two-thirds of North Carolinians either overweight or obese.  Heart disease and asthma rates have increased in recent years, causing thousands of hospitalizations every year.  High levels of air pollution, and transportation systems that encourage a car-based culture are contributing to these diseases.  As people drive more and walk less, they put their own health at risk.  More cars on the road also means more pollution, which keeps public health moving in a downward spiral.

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Promoting Active Living:

One way to address public health concerns is to rethink how we design our communities. Encouraging more active lifestyles through walking, biking and public transit are options for addressing chronic weight problems, as well as heart disease and many other health issues. Complete Streets policies encourage planners to incorporate infrastructure for walking and biking, as well as transit, into their street designs. Having bike lanes, well-marked cross walks, and sidewalks in place makes it simpler and safer for residents to choose more active lifestyles and use their cars less. The key to active living is to design our communities so that physical activity is integrated into people’s daily routines, so it isn’t a burden, but rather a choice.

As more people choose to be healthier and drive less, air pollution will be reduced, traffic congestion will ease, and our health will improve! Part of moving toward a culture of active living may by educating municipal planners, or advocating for policies to be put in place that encourage development to be designed with walking or biking in mind. Part of it is also making a personal choice to get out of your car and utilize other forms of transportation. Studies show that it will make your healthier, and happier!