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The Built Environment And Childhood Health

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The American Academy of Pediatrics' Committee on Environmental Health has issued a policy statement that links suburban America's over-reliance on cars with childhood weight problems.

"An estimated 32 percent of American children are overweight, and physical inactivity contributes to this high prevalence of overweight. This policy statement highlights how the built environment of a community affects children’s opportunities for physical activity," the paper published in the June 2009 issue of the academy's Pediatrics magazine.

In part, the problem arises from suburban sprawl, which has made children far more reliant on being driven around by their parents.

"Building new communities that are less car dependent and making existing communities more dense are strategies that can make it easier for people to walk to their destinations of daily life," the paper notes. "Higher land-use mix encourages more utilitarian trips among residents and increases their ability to reach their destinations on foot rather than by automobile. Proximity of neighborhood shops to residences promotes trips on foot or by bicycle."

The panel asks governments officials to promote "active living" through planning and zoning regulations and to increase the number of parks and playgrounds.

The paper includes an extensive reference section.

Download PDF: The Built Environment: Designing Communities to Promote Physical Activity in Children