Pediatricians call for walkable communities

The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Environmental Health released a major policy statement in late May calling for communities to be designed to facilitate physical activity, especially among children. About 17 percent of American children are overweight, and lack of physical activity contributes to that problem, according to the paper called “The Built Environment: Designing Communities to Promote Physical Activity in Children.” Community design is a factor in children’s inactivity, the committee says.

This paper advocates locating parks and schools in closer proximity to housing, but it also calls for denser, more interconnected, and less automobile-dependent communities. At times, the paper sounds like professional planners rather than a committee of medical doctors wrote it. “Building new communities that are less car dependent and making existing communities more dense are two strategies that can make it easier for people to walk to their destinations of daily life,” the doctors write. “Higher land-use mix encourages more utilitarian trips among residents and increases their ability to reach their destinations on foot rather than by automobile.” The report also blamed low-density, leapfrog development, which they called “sprawl,” for increases in pedestrian and traffic fatalities.