Thursday, November 03, 2005

Is City Living Healthier Than in the Suburbs?

Yes, according to a report on public health as it relates to development patterns by the Ontario College of Family Physicians.

A graph in their report indicates the greater the density (sprawl index), the fewer the fatalities per 1000 people (as calculated over 83 U.S. regions that covered two-thirds of the total population).

Why are people dying? The reports showed lower densities have higher incidence of cardiovascular and lung diseases including asthma in children, cancer, diabetes, obesity, traffic injuries and deaths. They feel these are exacerbated by an increase in air pollution, gridlock, traffic accidents and lack of physical activity.

What to do? They suggest the following:

  • Move to a town or city that has a reliable public transportation system;
  • Choose a place to live that has bicycle lanes and pedestrian paths;
  • Choose a town with parks and wildlife areas to clean and cool the air;
  • If possible, choose a community where you can walk to work, stores and schools;
  • Get to know your neighbors and volunteer in the community.

Since we don't want to move, maybe we should place a high value on achieving these qualities right here in Sarasota:

  1. Instead of parking lots, put the money into a really good transit system;
  2. don't remove bicycle lanes (as suggested for Fruitville), put more in place;
  3. keep the trees we have and find ways to increase green space downtown, along 41 and 301, and in the neighborhoods;
  4. put affordable housing on the State Street parking lot and the lot behind the opera (create walk to work, affordable housing instead of more parking structures);
  5. and of course walk around, meet your fellow citizens and talk about how to make Sarasota even better!

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