Where people live, work, and play affects their health.
Local policies and the physical environment influence daily choices that affect our health—and our weight (Bell & Rubin, 2007).
For example, children who live in unsafe neighborhoods may be restricted to watching television indoors instead of playing outside after school. Families living in neighborhoods that are zoned exclusively for residential use must drive to work and school because it is too far to walk. Communities that lack full-service grocery stores and neighborhood food markets have less access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
Moreover, policies that establish physical activity requirements and nutrition standards in schools and daycare facilities can promote the health and well-being of children. These are just a few examples of how policies and the environment can affect what we eat and how we move, which in turn affects our health.
To reverse the obesity epidemic, we must change our physical and food environments to provide more opportunities for people to eat healthy foods and to be physically active on a daily basis. Accordingly, the Center for Disease control (CDC) recommends 24 strategies to encourage and support healthy eating and active living.
- Increase availability of healthier food and beverage choices in public service venues
- Improve availability of affordable healthier food and beverage choices in public service venues
- Improve geographic availability of supermarkets in underserved areas
- Provide incentives to food retailers to locate in and/or offer healthier food and beverage choices in underserved areas
- Improve availability of mechanisms for purchasing foods from farms
- Provide incentives for the production, distribution, and procurement of foods from local farms
- Restrict availability of less healthy foods and beverages in public service venues
- Institute smaller portion size options in public service venues
- Limit advertisements of less healthy foods and beverages
- Discourage consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages
- Increase support for breastfeeding
- Require physical education in schools
- Increase the amount of physical activity in physical education programs in schools
- Increase opportunities for extracurricular physical activity
- Reduce screen time in public service venues
- Improve access to outdoor recreational facilities
- Enhance infrastructure supporting bicycling
- Enhance infrastructure supporting walking
- Support locating schools within easy walking distance of residential areas
- Improve access to public transportation
- Zone for mixed-use development
- Enhance personal safety in areas where persons are or could be physically active
- Enhance traffic safety in areas where persons are or could be physically