Cities and Obesity

Reversing the Obesity Epidemic: The Role of Cities

The obesity epidemic has put an enormous financial burden on cities, while also diminishing the quality of life for their residents. Policymakers, advocates, and health care providers now recognize that community factors including urban design may contribute to obesity. How can the public follow recommendations for daily physical activity when their neighborhoods offer no safe place for exercise? How can they increase their intake of fresh fruits and vegetables when their communities offer no grocery stores or farmers markets? A high obesity rate is often a symptom of a community lacking in the basic infrastructure needed to support optimal health.

All across the country, municipal leaders are harnessing the power of local governments to create neighborhoods and workplaces where residents and employees can exercise and eat healthy food. They are using their land use authority to retrofit neighborhoods with sidewalks and safe streets for walking and biking, parks and open space for recreation and community building, and fresh, affordable food for the table. They are using economic development tools to bring grocery stores and farmers markets into food deserts. Their human resources departments are offering employees options for healthy food at work, and to get exercise during the work day.