Researchers: Sprawl Related to Health Woes
- Researchers: Sprawl Related to Health Woes
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina researchers are heading a national study
to find the best ways to redesign communities so that Americans get out of
their cars and travel by foot or bicycle. The $2.8 million, five-year
study involves Active Living by Design, headquartered in Chapel Hill, and
the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research
Triangle Park."Community design and limited transportation choice often
prevent people from leading physically active lives," said Richard
Killingsworth, director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Active
Living by Design Program.
Killingsworth was guest editor last year of a special issue of the American
Journal of Health Promotion that reported that people living amid suburban
sprawl where walking is difficult are more likely to have weight problems
and high blood pressure. NIEHS researcher Allen Dearry was also was a key
In the new study, Active Living by Design is to help 25 test communities
across the country focus on improving public health by involving city
planning, transportation, architecture, recreation, crime prevention,
traffic safety and education.Chapel Hill, where Killingsworth and Dearry
both live in subdivisions designed to be walkable, is the only North
Carolina community involved in the project.Then NIEHS, a branch of the
National Institutes of Health, is to conduct follow-up examinations of the
program's impact on physical activity, obesity and other health indicators.
"We'd like to determine if simple changes in the built environment and in
individual behavior can enhance physical activity and reduce obesity for
residents," NIEHS director Kenneth Olden said in announcing the project.
"Local municipalities could then look at the results and determine if
modifying the built environment might affect the public's health and reduce
health care costs."The built environment includes houses, schools and
workplaces as well as public areas like parks and museums.
Federal health officials say 64 percent of American adults are overweight
or obese. Though the causes may involve various genetic, environmental, and
behavioral factors, evidence continues to point toward sedentary lifestyles
as a major contributor, and walking as the most healthful way out.
On the Net:
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences: www.niehs.nih.gov
Active Living by Design Program: www.activelivingbydesign.org
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: www.rwjf.org
2004-11-08 12:09:43 GMT Copyright 2004 The Associated Press All
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The open-access general medical journal from the Public Library of Science
Inaugural issue: Autumn 2004 Share your discoveries with the world.
- If you click over to the New Mobility Cafe - http://newmobility.org then
click on left menu Talking New Mobility -- you will see a first rate
series of exchanges on this topic that I would urge you not to miss,
that got started on Sustran Network and which is now continuing on both.
First rate. An example follows to whet your appetite.
On Behalf Of Brendan Finn
Sent: Saturday, November 20, 2004 6:08 PM
To: Asia and the Pacific sustainable transport
Asia is a big place, with a lot of diversity. Which part of Asia do you
want to look at - India, China, Indonesia, Central Asia, the Middle East
? Also, which sort of buses - urban, rural, intercity ? I guess when I
saw your request, the first thing that occurred to me was that you
wanted just the bad stuff, but I presume that you actually want any
I think it would be useful (and maybe fairer as well) to differentiate
between problems with people which can also happen on the bus (maybe a
crowded bus gives extra opportunities), and problems with the buses and
I spend a lot of time in Central Asia (the 'Stans), most recently in
Kazakhstan. Travel on the urban buses is generally safe, both in terms
of accident risk and from unwanted attentions. Big buses are fine, and
reasonably comfortable, even if a little old. There has been a
proliferation on small buses (route-taxis or marshrutki) in recent
years. The drivers are less well trained, the conditions more cramped,
and it's herder to figure where you are or where you're going.
Nonetheless, safety is reasonably good. Among other data, I collected
information on the number of fatalities and serious injuries involving
urban public transport in a number of Kazakh cities. They range from
zero to 4 fatalities in a year. Taking into account the mileage, and
calculating an overall fatalities per 10 million miles, the figures were
just a little worse than Dublin, where I'm from. My experience of the
transport authorities is that they make quite reasonable efforts to
enforce basic safety and technical quality of the vehicles doing urban
transport, although they have less control over the vehicles entering
the city form outside.
The intercity services are somewhat different, being effectively a
deregulated market. Vehicles are old, and of varying quality. Safety is
not at the same level as in the cities. I used a number of buses between
the North-East and East cities. From the passenger's perspective, there
is some discomfort, especially caused by poor ventilation. However, I
never felt that any threat, hostility or risk of theft either on the
buses or in the bus stations (although some were a bit scruffy, and
could be intimidating to people not used to them). I have been on buses
with no brakes, no windscreen, one driven by a driver clearly getting
his first lesson, and so forth, but I have not witnessed reckless
driving, or heard concerns among people about safety. I found the
passengers friendly and chatty to each other and to me, and that there
was a general 'camaraderie of the road'.
I would make similar comments about the urban transport services in
Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan where I have also lived and worked, but I
don't have first-hand experience or really know the intercity services
in those countries.
My limited experience of intercity, coach and urban bus services in
Malaysia has all been very positive. Sometimes it's a little creaky at
the seams, especially in the lower used and lower-tariff services, but
I've never seen either poor quality vehicles or reckless driving. In
fact, in places such as Kuching and Kota Kinabalu (Malaysian Borneo)
I've been really impressed by the driving standards of the minibus
By contrast, Sri Lanka is worrying. There are two sectors - the
more-or-less state sector that are part of the former (?) Ceylon
Transport Board. These are the 'peoplised' companies, and have about
6.000 buses. Generally, the vehicles are maintained OK and driven
somewhere between OK and OK-ish. By contrast, the private operators -
maybe 6,000+ vehicles - have no such restraint, and drive recklessly.
This leads to many accidents and many fatalities. Traffic levels on Sri
Lankan roads requires playing chicken to overtake, and lets just say
there are lots of feathers around. When I was there in June 2002, every
day in the paper there were articles and/or editorials complaining about
the seriousness of the problem, and there were reports of fatalities -
I hope this is of help for your article.