People are increasingly making connections between the built environment and the impacts that it has on our health, both physically and mentally. While public health has been less of a focus of concern for cities in the past, more urban areas today are taking notice of the important linkages between health and the quality of the urban environment. Around the world, city officials are beginning to incorporate public health experts and entrepreneurs into discussions of how to take action to promote healthy urban populations. In fact, 3 of the 21 cities participating in the 2012 LLGA put forth challenges that center around health and physical activity issues. Clearly the state of health in cities is gaining greater recognition as a key urban concern, one that is as worthy of attention as other major urban problems such as transportation, energy, and the economy. And like any urban issue, health problems do not occur in isolation. Providing solutions to promote healthy populations in cities can benefit other aspects of city life, and vice versa.
With many cities facing public health challenges such as air quality, poor nutrition, and lack of physical activity, there are plentiful opportunities to develop solutions that would enable cities to promote rather than compromise good health. An article posted earlier this week discussed the potential that public spaces have to encourage physical activity. By creating installations that engage passers-by and inspire movement and play, cities can influence the activity levels of their citizens.
Another idea to encourage mobility and active living comes from the nominees' list for Eindhoven, The Netherlands, in this year's LLGA. Dubbed the "Good Gym", this project couples exercise with social assistance for the elderly. Runners and walkers can use the Good Gym to find a list of errand runs needed nearby, such as picking up groceries or making a delivery, that benefit elderly people within the community who are unable to make these trips themselves.
By connecting those who want to exercise with those with limited mobility, the Good Gym harnesses the social good potential of physical activity. Elderly people of the community benefit from reduced cost of care and greater social interaction with runners, while runners are connected to an inexpensive way to simultaneously exercise and volunteer their time to those who need it.
~ Allison Bullock