Policy Corner: Built Environment Policies to Help Curb Increases in Childhood Obesity and Inactivity
One out of every three children in the United States is classified as overweight or obese, and physical inactivity is one of the leading causes. There are a number of factors that affect a child’s activity level – one being their environment and physical surroundings.
The term “built environment” describes physical or man-made features that provide opportunities for physical activity, such as sidewalks, bicycle trails, streetlights and parks. Through proper use of the built environment, neighborhoods and communities can provide opportunities for recreational physical activity. Plus, children can engage in physical activity as a part of their daily lives, such as traveling to school or playing in local parks.
How, specifically, can built environment policies address issues like obesity and physical inactivity? Environment modifications that alleviate traffic accident rates are likely to lead to more walking and biking among children. Actions that reduce parental fears of accidents and crime will promote outdoor physical activity. Policies that encourage more active lifestyles among children and adolescents will enable them to achieve the recommended amount of daily physical activity through playing, walking or biking. By working with community partners, local, state and federal officials, ACSM members can help establish communities designed for activity and health.
What can ACSM members do to help?