Walkability and its link to health

Alison Motluk reports on recent research at the U of T and St Michael’s Hospital which investigated the correlation between walkability of neighbourhoods and the onset of diabetes.  The results of the study show that walkable neighbourhoods do a better job of preventing diabetes than even use of medication.  According to the study, the positive effect of walkability is particularly great in lower-income areas and with certain immigrant groups more susceptible to diabetes.  The researcher, Gillian Booth who is an endocrinologist, suggested that because health is so clearly related to the walkability of neighbourhoods

Canadians should rethink how we build communities. We could set minimum standards for density and public transit, for instance, and reevaluate how development happens, she says.

The medical evidence for the health of walkable neighbourhoods appears clear from this study.  Would you ever have expected an endocrinologist, acting in her professional capacity, to advocate for more thoughtfully-planned development?  I would not have expected this, and I find it remarkable to hear her say it.

C. Everett Koop, M.D. – a man devoted to neighbourliness and the common good

Yesterday C. Everett Koop, M.D. passed away.  Dr. Koop was the Surgeon General of the United States at a crucial time of serious medical emergency during the beginning of the AIDS crisis in the US.

As the nation’s chief medical officer of health, he shaped the policies and attitudes for the well-being of American citizens.  Dr. Koop acted as both a person of faith and as a man of science devoted to the facts and evidence.

Michael Specter highlights the work of Dr. Koop and how as an Evangelical he was controversial to the left because of his commitment to conservative values, but he was also controversial to those on the right because of his commitment to the ideals of science and medicine.

In our current time when many public policy decisions, and especially science-based policy decisions, seem to be heavily influenced by positions of the left or the right, public servants like Dr. Koop are increasingly rare.

In the clip below Dr. Koop explains how he responded to the AIDS crisis as it suddenly emerged on the scene:   

Here is an interview with Dr. Koop discussing how he managed his own ethical integrity as a Christian in the role of a public servant:

As the Surgeon General of the USA Dr. Koop’s actions were key to shaping American attitudes and response to AIDS crisis.    In this video below, that also includes an appearance by actor Johnny Depp, Dr. Koop encourages people to respond to AIDS sufferers with a sincere attitude of neighbourliness.

Motivated by his own personal faith, a deep commitment to the truth of science, and a desire to act ethically as a public servant, Dr. C. Everett Koop, M.D. is a man to be remembered.

Sensory Connection Between the City and the Countryside

The city and the countryside share a sensory connection both in visual forms and sounds, when we seek them out.    To some people (myself included) car horns remind them of bird chirps and the hum of traffic along a highway is like the sound of a rushing stream.  In this beautifully-composed short film, called Neighbourhood, the filmmaker has brought together the urban and the rural side-by-side so we may see the similarities.

How do you feel about this film?  If you live in the city, do you experience this?  If you live in the country, is this connection something you would make?

neighborhood from Vera Danilina on Vimeo.

If I Were Mayor: Part 1

In a run-up to the Toronto municipal election to be held on Monday, October 25, 2010, the National Post has started a series of interviews where they are asking people what they would do if they were mayor of Toronto.  The first one is with George Stroumboulopoulus and with Annie Kidder.

Urban Institute’s Top Ten List of most read papers 2009

The Urban Institute published a list detailing which of their papers attracted the most attention for 2009.

Dogs make cities Greener

Bradford Plumer comments that because dogs make cities safer, and therefore more desirable, there is also a spin-off effect of making cities Greener.

And if the parks and streets are safer, wouldn’t that convince more people to live in those urban neighborhoods (say, instead of the suburbs)? Doesn’t that ultimately have a green effect? I don’t know how it all tallies up, but surely there are a few marks on the positive side of the dog externality ledger.

Dogs and safe neighbourhoods

Ezra Klein, in the Washington Post for Jan 5, 2010 reflects on Richard Kayman’s post about dog walkers notes how in his experience a few poodles on the sidewalk makes a big difference.  He suggests that perhaps transitional neighbourhoods should offer tax incentives for dog ownership.

Richard Kayman’s paean to dog walkers describes my experience perfectly:

I am not a dog person myself, but I am deeply appreciative of well-managed dog parks because in many urban neighborhoods, dog owners are some of the only regularly walking people in a community — many neighborhoods outside of the inner core of Washington are dominated by automobiles and there is relatively little positive pedestrian activity on often empty sidewalks.

Dog walkers contribute positive activity not just to streets and sidewalks but to parks. It’s very easy for a park to devolve into a dangerous place. One technique for people committed to disorder to keep people (especially families and children generally) out of parks is to break a lot of bottles — broken glass keeps a park free of children, making it easier to conduct illicit business and activities.

My neighborhood isn’t the world’s best, but nor is it the world’s worst. After dark, the streets fill with dog walkers. A couple per block, at least. In the winter, they’re the only people on the streets. Without them, the neighborhood would be lot emptier, and the streets would feel a lot more forbidding. Placing a couple of poodles — and my neighborhood has a lot of poodles — on the landscape really does wonders. Developing neighborhoods should give some sort of tax credit for dog ownership.

Actually, my area is doing the next best thing. The city is building a big park/open air drug market near my house. At least, that’s the joke. But the design is smart: It’s got a big dog park, in addition to a community garden and some playgrounds. And if the streets are any indication, the dog park will be used, which means the park will be used, which means the plan might work out after all. The blogosphere is oddly thick with cat owners, but this is just one more reason dog people are better than cat people.