Streetsblog.net

Healthier Kids — By Design

As we noted
the other day, First Lady Michelle Obama has launched a multifaceted
initiative to reduce child obesity in the United States called Let’s Move. It’s a
campaign that emphasizes the ways in which getting children up and
active can help to improve their health for a lifetime.

The Let’s Move agenda focuses on access to healthy foods, outdoor
play time, family involvement and healthier schools. But in an article
published on The
City Fix
yesterday, Megan McConville writes that one important
piece is so far missing from the mix: planning and design. McConville
has some suggestions to fix that:

168628342_1e12aa254d.jpgFor
healthier kids, we need healthier street design. (Photo: massdistraction
via Flickr)

Obviously, Michelle Obama and her task force
can’t take on every issue tied to obesity, but targeted active community
design strategies
can be highly effective ways to integrate activity
into the everyday lives of children.  For example, "complete streets" and bicycle infrastructure

make it safer and easier for kids to bike and walk. Taking public
transportation allows for more activity than riding in a car. Traffic
calming and design mechanisms focused on pedestrians instead of
motorists make streets less dangerous for children. And creating
compact, walkable, mixed-use communities with nearby destinations and
vibrant streetscapes mean more daily activity for children and their
parents, and more open space for them to play in.

The First Lady could build on past efforts that successfully
connected planning, physical activity and children’s issues. For one,
the former Mayor of Bogotá, Enrique
Peñalosa
, showed us how orienting an urban revitalization effort
around kids’ needs can be advantageous for everyone. According
to his philosophy
,
a city that is safe and enjoyable for children — our most vulnerable
population — is a good city.…

The First Lady should include the U.S
Department of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development,
Environmental Protection Agency and Office of Urban Affairs leadership
in her task force, and she should reach out to mayors across the
country (she
has the support of two already
). This group could piggyback on the
good work already being done through the federal Livability Initiative
and by groups like the U.S.
Conference of Mayors
.

More from around the network: The
Transport Politic
on Indianapolis’s big transit plans. Imagine
No Cars
on support for active transportation in Missoula, Montana.
And Travelin’
Local
on efforts to become more bike-friendly in Long Beach,
California.