Planning And Public Health Scholars Working Together To Tackle Sprawl

Researchers at the University of Calgary are investigating whether the costs of physical inactivity and obesity could justify stronger regulation to halt sprawl.

"Canada's fastest growing city should set an example by growing up instead of out. That's the word from a multidisciplinary University of Calgary team looking at ways to tackle the suburban sprawl-obesity link.

"Calgary has a big footprint," says Bev Sandalack, PhD, an urban planning professor at U of C. "We're overwhelmed by our suburbs. Here the new suburbs are six to eight units per acre - that's extremely low density."

Figuring she lived in the epicentre of suburban sprawl, and buoyed by a grant from the CIHR, Dr Sandalack joined forces with colleagues from the medicine and kinesiology faculties to research the impact of urban planning on public health. Alberta is well above the national average when it comes to obesity rates.

"The University of Calgary wants to ... figure out if forcing planners to develop pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods is cost-effective. They expect that will be pretty easy to prove. "Physical inactivity is a major cause of chronic disease," observes Dr Sandalack, so the logic is getting people to exercise will save healthcare dollars." "

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