I always cringe when I hear self-proclaimed health junkies say that they’re “not political,” or when I realize that they spend all their time learning the landscape of their gym, instead of contemplating the layout of their city. Why? If health care debates don’t make it obvious: Health is political. And it’s not all about health insurance, either: From the choices we have at Whole Foods to the quality of city parks and recreation, our day-to-day health depends on laws, regulations, and government budgets. It also depends on good city planning and design. So all you health junkies out there: We want you on city council, stat.
You know those yearly articles in health mags about the healthiest cities in the US of A? They’re not just fun facts, and a city’s ranking doesn’t come about by mere coincidence, either. The health index of states and cities is a result of economics, city planning, and government support for programs that help populations stay active and healthy. Obviously, cities like Maui and Colorado are more likely than, say, Kansas City to attract the active type, but even cities that aren’t steeped in ski bums or surfers can be healthy, with the right kind of city planning.
This is probably why Jay Parkinson, M.D. (founder of Hello Health and The Future Well) posted about the top 10 indicators of good urban design. He notes that things like environmentally conscious city planning and focusing on people instead of cars is vital to health:
Good urban design is by nature about empowering the health of every individual. Because the definition of health is optimizing the following components of your life: Body, Mind, Relationships, Money, Work, Environment, Curiosity.
Parkinson also mused about the impact of our surroundings in a blog post for The Future Well: “Most health solutions aren’t medical, they’re social.” Within, he argues that companies who focus on assisting with lifestyle change that encourages health and happiness will be much more successful than companies that only address sickness, death, and disease. The same goes for cities, methinks: We need people who know what it takes to be healthy and happy to get involved instead of just hanging out at the gym.
So calling all health junkies out there: Get involved. Ask for bike lanes, tell your city council what you need to be fit and free of disease. Get involved in good urban design, don’t just up and move to the number one city on this year’s list of healthiest places to live.
Here are a few ways to get involved:
2. Support your local farmer’s market. We know, you tired of hearing about how you should shell out for expensive stuff from “local businesses.” But even if Target is looking a lot more plausible than your neighborhood boutique, we encourage you to spend what you can on a couple of things from the farmer’s market. Having fresh, local food available isn’t a given; it requires customer support.
3. Keep up on the news. We wish we could cover all elements of urban design on Blisstree, but the truth is, we can’t give you news about everything. One of our favorite resources for staying up-to-date on cool, healthy city planning is GOOD, but don’t forget to stay on top of your local news. Being informed is half the battle.