Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission releases Built Environment Assessment
How can city planners help people be healthy? That’s what the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission’s (MVRPC) Built Environment Assessment set out to answer.
Released last week, the assessment looks at how planners could promote more active living in the Dayton Metro Region. Active living integrates physical activity into our everyday routines – think walking or biking to work or to the store.
It sounds simple, but your ability to do that often depends on where you live. Older, urban neighborhoods with sidewalks and other infrastructure have higher rates of active living. Newer and suburban neighborhoods have much lower rates.
Martin Kim is the Director of Community and Regional Planning at the MVRPC.
“I think we are designing and building [communities] that are more of an automobile oriented neighborhood than a neighborhood where people can walk,” he said.
According to the assessment, 82% of people have adequate access to locations for physical activity. However, 28% of adults reported having no leisure-time physical activity region wide.
That’s why incorporating active living into everyday life is so important. Instead of people needing to find dedicated time to go to the gym, they can instead walk to work, to the store, or to any number of activities around them.
However, a lot of neighborhoods don’t have the infrastructure needed for this active lifestyle.
“I’m sure you have seen this as you walk around or as you drive around. You have a good sidewalk, right? And then, all of a sudden, you see this dead-end sidewalk. So, it’s good that it’s there, but at the same time there’s no connectivity there to destinations. So, you’re at a point like, okay, what am I going to do?” Kim said, chuckling.
The Built Environment Assessment is the second project of the Plan4Health - Miami Valley Initiative, a multi-year effort intended to better health outcomes across the region.
The first project, the Health Environment Assessment, laid the groundwork for the Built Environment Assessment.
According to the Health Environment Assessment, more than a third of adults in the Miami Valley are obese, nearly a third have high blood pressure, and one in nine adults has been diagnosed with diabetes. Additionally, one in six adults report having 14 or more poor mental health days per month.
“If the community is not so conducive to [an] active living lifestyle, then we found that the quality of life is lower for those [communities,]” Kim said.
If more communities had walkable infrastructure, Kim said, those numbers could be lowered. That’s why Kim says people should do their best to stay as active as they can.
He also encourages people to engage in civic participation by working with local officials to push for more active living infrastructure.
“We believe that it is our duty and responsibility to make sure that we participate and that we have this health as a focus of our kind of future visioning so that we can provide good built environment that would allow our children to enjoy active living not [just] as children, but as they grow up,” Kim said.