Health concerns to play larger role in Portland, other cities’ future planning

This article by Andy Dworkin was posted on and has to do with how planning effects public health.  As America continues to get fatter, we can see that the advice to diet and exercise isn’t doing a whole lot of good.  So what some activists in Portland and other communities are doing is creating plans that will encourage people to be more active.  This includes building the necessary infrastructure, such as sidewalks and bike paths, and creating a mix of land uses so that everyday needs are within walking distance.  The idea is that this will help tackle health problems on a societal level rather than an individual level.  An area around Southeast 122nd in Portland is being used as a test case for the Portland Plan, which will shape the way the city develops over the next 25 years.

Planning in America started as a public health measure.  This started with infrastructure measures such as closed sewer systems, but lead into land use aspects such as not allowing factories in residential areas and stepping back skyscrapers to allow light to filer down to the ground.  Although this did have a great effect on public health and life expectancy, it is outdated.  Current environmental regulations take away many of the health burdens of living near industry.  Zoning areas for separate uses forces them to be further apart, encouraging people to drive and be sedentary, leading to a number of poor health problems such as obesity and heart disease.  A number of efforts to remedy this problem are being considered, with the CDC co-hosting this year’s Congress for the New Urbanism and focusing on walkable communities.  Some areas, such as Corvallis, OR, are working on community gardens and creating pedestrian links throughout town.  It is important to involve locals, partially because different neighborhoods have different needs and partially because people are more likely to participate if they feel that it was their idea.  Portland is already at the forefront of planning in America, and with efforts like these, they are likely to stay there.

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