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Can We Design Healthier Communities?

PBS series explores how some communities are remaking themselves to be friendlier to people rather than cars.

PBS is airing an intriguing series called Designing Healthy Communities. I watched the first episode, “Retrofitting Suburbia,” and found it both depressing and hopeful. The diabetes and childhood obesity statistics are disturbing, but the solutions being developed in some cities are inspiring.

Dr. Richard Jackson, pediatrician and former director of the National Center for Environmental Health at the Center for Disease Control, hosts the series, which connects obesity-related health problems with poor community planning.

Metro Atlanta is featured prominently in the “Retrofitting Suburbia” episode. Jackson lived in the area while at the CDC and discovered first hand the problems related to sprawl and car-centric development.

“The average employed Atlantan drives 66 miles a day,” Dr. Jackson says during the segment that focuses on our metropolis. He also notes that Atlanta is one of the ten most dangerous cities for pedestrians in the United States.

Although metro Atlanta is presented as a cautionary tale, the city is also lauded for some of its efforts to retrofit obsolete infrastructure, including the re-purposing of a shopping center in Smyrna, the Atlantic Station development, and the Beltline.

The series is thought provoking and definitely worth a look if you can catch it.

After watching the first episode, my thoughts turned to Tucker. Have the streetscape improvements on Main Street inspired you to park the car and walk around the area a bit?

If not, what would lead you to do so? Do events like weekly with the opportunity to buy healthy, fresh food, have a role to play? What are we missing that might lead to healthier, more active lifestyles, not just in Tucker but also in the suburbs in general? Tell us in the comments below-

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Heather June 21, 2012 at 01:46 PM
I'll have to watch this documentary. However, I think it is more complicated that just putting up a developer designed work/live/play property and calling it a day. We seriously need to look at our land use policy (aka zoning). So many people are deeply invested in single family housing only zoning but this forces families out into homes they can more easily afford. We roads without sidewalks that don't connect (ie grid system). Our parks aren't a budget priority and even when you visit they are sad, often strewn with garbage, and have no running water or fifthy bathrooms (take your pick). And this is all normal. If in-town living was more affordable, people might chose it. But the reality is, that it's not affordable or appealing for many families. A 1 acre lot single family home given land and building cost in Metro Atlanta requires 2 working professionals to pay the mortgage. Then they are spending their time commuting, driving kids back and forth to school, where is there time to exercise every day? So to save time we buy ready meals which are high in sodium and fat and then numb out on tv and other screen time. I would love to see more support for multi family housing in traditional residential neighborhoods.

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