Planners and architects have the tools to help prevent many of the health challenges confronting Americans. But determining which tools to deploy in which environments is hampered by a poor understanding of direct causation. In fact, a new report from MIT’s Center for Advanced Urbanism (CAU) "knocks down many of the assumptions that have become entrenched in how we think about health and cities: namely, that walkable cities are healthier than auto-oriented suburbs, that cars are a primary cause of our expanding waistlines, that too much fast food and too little fresh fruit are to blame for inner-city obesity," writes Emily Badger.
"Along the way, the report critiques a number of current projects in eight U.S. cities that seem to be counting a little too much on these simple narratives." Transit-oriented development in Los Angeles, a plan to build grocery stores in Chicago's low-income neighborhoods, and Atlanta's BeltLine all come in for criticism.
"A recurring thread throughout the report is one of humility: We don't know as much as we think we do, and there are certainly no silver-bullet design solutions for systemic public health problems," adds Badger.