Posts Tagged ‘obesity’

Bike Shorts for June 29th, 2010

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

A young protester at the Palmer Park rally against closing Detroit parks

Complete Streets bills pass the House

House Bill 6151 passed on a 85 to 21 vote while House Bill 6152 passed 84 to 22. Both bills are now on their way to the Senate. This is great news, but we’re not done yet. Please contact your Michigan Senator and ask them to support both bills.

Michigan Ranked 10th for Obesity

The newest obesity report was just released.

Michigan was named the tenth most obese state in the country, according to the seventh annual F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2010 report from the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

Obesity rates among youths ages 10-17 from the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) also were included in the 2009 F as in Fat report; 12.4 percent of children were obese in the state, with the state ranking 41st out of the 50 states and D.C. for childhood obesity.

What’s interesting is Michigan’s youth obesity rank is 41st.

Detroit RiverWalk: A touch of nirvana

There’s a insightful Free Press opinion piece by Stephen Henderson.

We spent a big chunk of last Sunday, Father’s Day, on the RiverWalk, just a few blocks from where we live. …for my children, now 5 and nearly 7, this was just another slice of Detroit nirvana.

The riverfront is their very public backyard, where they ride bikes or scooters and marvel at the bellowing vessels headed for the Soo. They’ve seen a wedding. They’ve learned about ducks and geese and powerboats.

Their neighborhood is safe and full of nearby thrills.

Model D: Game changing projects

The Conner Creek Greenway is at #10 on this interesting list from Model D.

10. Conner Creek Greenway: Among the numerous bike lane and greenways projects around town, I chose to single this one out because of the fact that about a third of the 9-mile project, which will ultimately run contiguously from the Detroit River to Eight Mile by 2013, is already complete. The fact that the greenway taps into Creekside’s 140 acres of riverfront parks, Chandler Park and Mt. Olivet Cemetery and that it takes you pretty darn close to the haunted and awesome Two-Way Inn knocks this project out of the park.

Detroit Parks to remain open

The budget standoff between Detroit City Council and the Mayor’s office has been resolved. The $4.5 million cut to General Services has been restored. That cut would have eliminated 40 from the city’s grass cutting crew and kept parks from being mowed.

Sally Patrella from the Friends of Rouge Park posted the following on the Detroit Parks Coalition page on Facebook:

We did it. The mayor gave his budget amendment to City Council that restored half of the funding for parks and City Council approved it this afternoon. Mayor’s office says it is unlikely any parks will close now. President Pugh and Kenyatta agreed to work with this new coalition and Kenyatta is going to start a task force.

The Detroit Parks Coalition is having its second meeting next Wednesday, July 7 at 9 a.m. at the St. Luke Tabernacle, 19633 Joy Road (at Plainview 1 block east of Evergreen).

Had those 77 parks closed, it would likely have affected greenways and trails, including those at Rouge Park, Patton Park, and Palmer Park.

Keeping a tighter leash on kids in public

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

LiveScience has an interesting article, Kids Today on Tighter Leash, But Wild at Home. It suggests that today’s kids have less independent mobility, perhaps due in part to the bike unfriendly designs of newer communities.

Parents today give their children more freedom at home but keep them on a tighter leash in public, a new study finds. This is the reverse of what was considered good parenting in the early half of the last century, the researcher showed.

The loss of public freedom could reflect social changes, including the current design of towns and suburbs, which focus mostly on the convenience of auto traffic, not kids.

In the early 20th century, advice columns tended to promote obedience, with children listening to parents regarding diet, appearance and other personal matters.

While tightening the leashes at home, parents often gave their kids free rein outside, allowing them to play sports, ride bikes and toddler scooters, buses and subways all over town, and even hitch rides.

The Free Press recently published a similar article, Fear and technology are keeping kids indoors.

U.S. children spend 50% less time outdoors than they did 20 years ago, says the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan.

The lack of running or biking or splashing around in the sprinkler is one likely factor in rising childhood obesity rates, said education professor Rhonda Clements, who conducted a 2004 study, “An Investigation on the Status of Outdoor Play,” for Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y. In it, 85% of mothers reported their children spend less time playing outside than they did growing up.

This reduction in child mobility is also reflected in the number of kids walking or biking to school.

From a 2004 CDC study,

  • In 1969, 42 percent of children 5 to 18 years of age walked or bicycled to school. In 2001, only 16 percent did.
  • In 1969, 87 percent of children 5 to 18 years of age who lived within one mile of school walked or bicycled to school. In 2001, only 63 percent did.

The distances to schools and the traffic-related dangers were most often cited as barriers.

While the Safe Routes to School initiatives are addressing these barriers, it’s really something all of us need to keep pushing.

We need Complete Streets and well-designed communities that accomodate safe accessibility and mobility for future generations of kids — and that don’t require parent chauffeurs.

Obesity costs justify more bicycling investments

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

A Free Press article last week centered on a new report that exposes the high cost of obesity, which now makes up an estimated 9.1% of all medical spending.

Obesity’s not just dangerous, it’s expensive. New research shows medical spending averages $1,400 more a year for an obese person than for someone who’s normal weight.

Overall obesity-related health spending reaches $147 billion, double what it was nearly a decade ago, says the study published today by the journal Health Affairs.

RTI health economist Eric Finkelstein offers a blunt message for lawmakers trying to revamp the health care system: “Unless you address obesity, you’re never going to address rising health care costs.”

Earlier this week we covered a new report from the CDC that gave strategies on how to reduce America’s obesity rate. Those strategies included investing in our communities to make them more walkable and bikable.

More bike lanes, more sidewalks, etc.

So if obesity costs $147 billion annually, with roughly half financed by Medicare and Medicaid, how much does the federal transportation bill invest in bicycle and pedestrian facilities?

$541 million in 2008 or 0.7% of the obesity-related Medicare and Medicaid costs.

This is further justification to take a more holistic approach to transportation funding. It’s not just about mobility and concrete.

Wise investments in more livable, walkable, and bikeable communities can reduce obesity and the related federal medical spending — as well as everyones health insurance costs.

CDC: Build bike lanes, lose weight

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)This week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report called Recommended Community Strategies and Measurements to Prevent Obesity in the United States.

In the report, they recommend the following strategies:

Communities Should Enhance Infrastructure Supporting Bicycling

Enhancing infrastructure supporting bicycling includes creating bike lanes, shared-use paths, and routes on existing and new roads; and providing bike racks in the vicinity of commercial and other public spaces. Improving bicycling infrastructure can be effective in increasing frequency of cycling for utilitarian purposes (e.g., commuting to work and school, bicycling for errands). Research demonstrates a strong association between bicycling infrastructure and frequency of bicycling.

The report also cites evidence that “improving bicycling infrastructure is associated with increased frequency of bicycling.” In other words, if you build it, they will bike it.

Also their suggested means for measuring success is the “total miles of designated shared-use paths and bike lanes relative to the total street miles (excluding limited access highways).”

Note that shared-used paths are trails that are nearly always within their own right-of-way (e.g. rail trails.) They should not be confused with side paths or sidewalks, often called safety paths within Oakland County, which should not be designated bicycle facilities according to national guidelines.

Other related suggested strategies include:

  • Enhance infrastructure supporting walking.
  • Improve access to public transportation.
  • Zone for mixed-use development.
  • Support locating schools within easy walking distance of residential areas.

If this sounds like the CDC is promoting Complete Streets then you’re certainly in agreement with Barbara McCann from the National Complete Streets Coalition.

And if you’re interested in staying on top of the Complete Streets movement within Michigan, visit the relatively new Michigan Complete Streets web site.

(via Streetsblog)

Pro-bicycle pitches for conservative ears

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

Bicycle facility funding often takes verbal punches from some conservative voices who don’t consider it as a valid transportation option as driving.

Here are a couple advocacy approaches that might be more successful when appealing to conservative audiences.

Increasing National Security

William Lind, director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism at the Free Congress Foundation, was recently intereviewed in the Infrastructurist. And though he was talking about public transit, one could easily substitute biking into this same argument.

National Security is always a big interest to conservatives and any time you can talk in those terms, you’re going to have their attention. Virtually every American knows that our greatest single national security vulnerability at the moment, the one that has enmeshed us in the middle east, is our dependence on foreign oil, most of it coming from unstable parts of the world. And this can drag us into unwanted wars, as it has it can result not only in high gas prices, like we had last summer, but in complete cutoffs like we had in ’73 and ’79, where events halfway around the world suddenly leave our gas stations without any gas to sell. And at present, if that happens, most Americans have no backup.

Reducing Public Health Costs

The Associated Press recently noted a new report on obesity in the U.S. and its affect on Medicare costs.

Health economists once made the harsh financial calculation that the obese would save money by dying sooner, notes Jeff Levi, executive director of the Trust for America’s Health, a nonprofit public health group. But more recent research instead suggests they live nearly as long but are much sicker for longer, requiring such costly interventions as knee replacements and diabetes care and dialysis. Studies show Medicare spends anywhere from $1,400 to $6,000 more annually on health care for an obese senior than for the non-obese.

“There isn’t a magic bullet. We don’t have a pill for it,” said Levi, whose group is pushing for health reform legislation to include community-level programs that help people make healthier choices like building sidewalks so people can walk their neighborhoods instead of drive, and providing healthier school lunches.

“It’s not going to be solved in the doctor’s office but in the community, where we change norms,” Levi said.

Making our communities more bikeable can play a major role in reducing obesity and reducing public health care costs.

Where does Michigan stand? Here are some health statistics from the report:

  • 29% of Michigan adults are obese
  • Michigan has the ranked ninth in the percentage of obese adults
  • 12% of Michigan high school students are obese
  • On average, this obesity costs Michigan residents $291 per person in medical expenses. This is $33 per person above the national average.

Which state is the fattest? Mississippi has the highest obesity rate at nearly 33% — a title they’ve held for the past five years.