Media Contact: Jessica Berthold, Communications Manager, 510-444-7738, ext. 317
Prevention Institute applauds the Surgeon General for his leadership and vision on walkability. In a call to action released yesterday, Dr. Vivek Murthy made the case for walkability, showing that regular physical activity can help prevent or manage chronic disease, boost quality of life, connect community members to one another and neighborhood resources, and close gaps in health and safety, and he called for diverse sectors of society to work together to “design communities that make it safe and easy to walk for people of all ages and abilities.”
“Dr. Murthy has taken a critical step to raise awareness about the importance of walkable communities to ensure the public’s health,” said Prevention Institute’s Managing Director, Manal J. Aboelata, who has devoted her career to embedding health and equity in community design and planning. “Walkable neighborhoods contribute to strong, thriving communities, where everyone can access safe places to be active, transit connections, abundant healthy food retail, and affordable housing within walking distance to good schools and jobs.”
Addressing walkability isn’t just a nice thing to do—it’s a gateway for improving social and economic conditions like neighborhood safety, access to quality education and jobs, environmental sustainability, and local economic development. “Creating walkable communities is about more than just building sidewalks and crosswalks—a truly walkable community is free from violence and injury, where residents have a voice in how neighborhoods look and feel, so that people of all ages and abilities can get around safely,” Aboelata said.
Creating opportunities to walk to schools, workplaces, recreational spaces, healthy food outlets, and other neighborhood destinations makes communities healthier, safer and more equitable places to live. Some pathways to advance walkability in every US community, particularly rural and urban communities that face the greatest barriers to walkability, include the following:
Engaging residents and stakeholders by facilitating community walkability workshops: To truly understand and address barriers to walkability, we need to tap community wisdom—the people who navigate their neighborhoods every day—and connect them with the range of creative solutions for making neighborhoods safe, interesting and pleasant places to walk.
Investing in infrastructure to support walkability in low-income urban and rural communities first: Federal, state and local transit investments that support walking, especially for residents that most rely on public transportation, can have a significant impact on public health, but also on other important societal issues like reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Connecting people to trails and pathways: Trails and pathways that connect neighborhoods, parks, schools and workplaces make it easier for people to build physical activity into their daily routines. Encouraging states and municipalities to finance new trails and pathways—and improve the safety and convenience of existing pathway—is important in creating environments that support walking and activity. People who live near places designated for physical activity are much more likely to meet recommended levels of daily activity—and this is good for health and health care costs.
Surgeon General Murthy and the Department of Health and Human Services have taken a clear stance on walkability. Now it’s critical that government, businesses, the non-profit sector and community residents work together to achieve healthier, walkable communities for all.