$2.8 million public-private partnership to examine how surroundings can encourage active lifestyles

A new $2.8 million effort, partnering public and private funding agencies, will examine how better community design encourages people to be more physically active in their daily lives. Researchers will identify how our built environment contributes to obesity and how environmental changes can combat a growing public health problem.

"We need to be as creative and inventive as we can to encourage Americans to make physical activity a part of their daily lives," Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said. "This new partnership is one more example of how we are working to promote physical activity and improve public health."

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences is paying for the five-year evaluation of communities located across the U.S. to assess the impact on physical activity and obesity of local design and transportation changes. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Active Living by Design Program is supporting 25 community partnerships to develop and implement collaboration among a variety of organizations in public health and other disciplines, such as city planning, transportation, architecture, recreation, crime prevention, traffic safety and education, as well as key groups concentrating on land use, public transit, non-motorized travel, public spaces, parks, trails, and architectural practices that advance physical activity.

The program establishes innovative approaches to increase physical activity through community design and communications strategies. The NIEHS will examine the program's impact on physical activity, obesity, and other health indicators. Results from these 25 communities will be compared against communities that haven't improved their surroundings to encourage physical activity.

The built environment encompasses buildings like houses, schools, and workplaces; industrial or residential land uses; public areas like parks and museums; zoning regulations and transportation sys

Contact: John Schelp
NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

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