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Shocking Health Statistics Call For Better City Planning

I read a lot of different reports and articles on walkability. I’ve seen lots of presentations from fantastic speakers on the connections between the obesity epidemic and our built environment, including by Richard Jackson, the former California Health Officer. I’ve seen him speak before, and I love how he just lays everything on the line and does not hold back for political correctness. A recent speech he gave at the New Schools Better Neighborhoods symposium was particularly haunting to me. Here are just a few examples of what he said:

In 1993–94, 6–8 percent of Californians had diabetes. By 1999 8–10 percent had diabetes, and by 2001 the rate was over 10 percent. If you walk down the street in Los Angeles, one person in ten has a disease that will cost them their retinas, their kidneys, and eventually their lives. When I was a young doctor, the fifth most common reason for people needing donated kidneys was diabetes. It's now far and away the number-one reason. The average 11-year-old in America is 11 pounds heavier than in 1980.

I did this presentation for Governor Schwarzenegger's office, and when I interviewed for the job they asked me what my priorities would be. The first was preparedness, the second would be the obesity epidemic, the third would be the need for a Department of Public Health—and I am delighted that Los Angeles has taken that lead, which has an excellent health officer in Dr. Fielding.

The governor's folks said, “Obesity? Why are you so concerned about this?” But I told them that one-third of all the little kids in schools will be diabetic in their lifetime if the trends we are looking at continue. The average loss of life is about 15 years, and there is an average reduction in quality of life by about 20 years….

…I would argue that thinking about the future demands, if we”re paying 15 percent of GDP in heath care costs and are looking at an aging population that's going to be increasingly diabetic, we”re going to have to change the environment to make people happier and healthier. What's the greatest environmental health threat in the 21st century? I actually think it's climate change…. You may think it's crazy, but it's real. The increases are phenomenal in the 50 years or so. Put the top five hottest years on record have occurred in the lifetime of your 8-year-old daughter.

This article is really fantastic, especially if you are not as versed in our topical areas. As I’ve said many times before, we’ve got a lot of work to do…

· Solving the Public Health Crisis with Smarter City Planning [The Planning Report]

{ 1 comment… add one }

  • Jessie Jane March 24, 2007, 10:29 am

    Eric, would you be willing to share a few tips with my Small Failures readers on how to either take advantage of their own neighborhood resources, or how to help make their neighborhoods more walkable?

    Small Failures tries to focus on practical how-tos, and I think my readers could really benefit from your insights.

    You can email me at: smallfailures@roughstockstudios.com


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