Toronto Suburbs Tackle Obesity Through Design

The role of the physical environment in promoting healthy living was the focus of a gathering last week in the Peel Region, which encompasses three of Toronto's western suburbs. Participants discussed the challenges of adapting suburban environs.
October 24, 2012, 5am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Tess Kalinowski discusses the new approach to tackling obesity being undertaken in the Peel Region, where leaders want to move treatments from the doctor's office to the streets. "Instead of scolding people to eat right and exercise," says Kalinowski, "the region wants its planners and policy makers to start designing communities that intrinsically promote healthier living - with more stairs, transit, enticements to walk or cycle, and easier access to healthy food."

"In the same way cities once put money and muscle into improving sanitation - building sewers and water treatment plants - to stop the spread of infectious disease, they must now play a role in preventing chronic disease, said Dr. David Mowat, Peel's medical officer of health, who was part of a Friday gathering in Mississauga called Healthy Peel by Design."

Participants recognized the added burden of meeting this challenge in the "sprawling, low-density communities such as Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon," but Peel is ahead of other regions in recognizing the obstacles and offering resources for designing places that promote healthy, active lifestyles.

"We have engineered the physical activity out of our busy lives, Mowat pointed out. 'Our rates of obesity are a normal response by normal people to an abnormal environment.'"

 

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Published on Tuesday, October 23, 2012 in Toronto Star
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