Are our cities making us obese? Lancet report says urban planning key to good health

According to a new report by Dr Shifalika Goenka, Commissioner of the Lancet Obesity Commission, the way our environments are built and land use laws are framed have a profound impact on our health.

Published: 31st January 2019 02:36 AM  |   Last Updated: 31st January 2019 05:32 AM   |  A+A-

Representational Image. (File Photo)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Did you know that the way our cities are planned and transportation systems designed can make us either fit or obese?

According to a new report by Dr Shifalika Goenka, Commissioner of the Lancet Obesity Commission, the way our environments are built and land use laws are framed have a profound impact on our health.

“Health considerations should be the basis while making laws on road design, pavements, pedestrian pathways, urban design and built environment...” says the report.

“This should become a mandatory requirement through  legislation.”

This comes after Lancet Commission, a three-year project by 43 experts from a broad range of expertise from 14 countries, stated that powerful vested interests and misplaced economic incentives are major drivers of joint pandemics of obesity, undernutrition and climate change.

Terming the global interplay of obesity, undernutrition and climate change as ‘The Global; Syndemic’, Lancet Commission says that it is driven by food and agriculture policies, transportation, urban design and land use systems that promote overconsumption and inequalities.

Calling for establishing Framework Convention on Food Systems similar to global conventions for tobacco control and climate change to restrict influence of food industry in policy-making, the report by the commission states that supporting active transportation through infrastructure, taxes and subsidy shifts and social marketing strategies will lead to increased physical activity and less sedentary time, with an impact on obesity prevention, cheaper transport access to healthy food and employment, potentially reducing poverty and undernutrition and lower greenhouse gas emissions from transportation.

The report calls for fostering active transportation through contextually relevant interventions towards pedestrian safety and comfort should become a mandatory requirement across departments in India.

“Pedestrian prioritisation over motorised transport, which ensures safety from accidents, is urgently required. Some of the India-specific measures urgently required are wide pedestrian paths, preferably as wide as the width of the road on either side are required. These should be well maintained and free of encroachments. The width of the motor-carriageways (roads for motorised transport) should not exceed 2 car lanes on each side,” the report stated.

“Anything more than two car lanes within a city or town is threatening to pedestrians and also becomes difficult to cross on foot,” the report added.

The report also states that worksite and buildings construction should make stairwells the centre in planning rather than escalators. “Attention to the quality of the staircases and possible sites of physical activity, making buildings disabled-friendly is an understood mandate which synchronises with ours,” the report added. 

The report also suggested the encouragement of indigenous drinks with large-scale training for hygiene and the use of ‘potable water’ with regular quality checks is required.

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