Jay Walljasper: Every Community Should be Safe for Walking
Jaw-dropping silence seized the room as Bullard showed a succession of maps illustrating how historic segregation and current poverty strongly correlate with low levels of walking and childhood opportunity as well as with high levels of obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.
“Health disparities don’t just happen by accident,” he explained. They are the tragic legacy of racism and unequal economic opportunity.
Ron Sims, who sponsored some of the first research identifying zip codes as a key determinant of health while chief executive of King County, Washington, noted. “If you have parks, playgrounds, community gardens, and wide sidewalks, you have good health outcomes. If you have walkable communities kids will do better in school…seniors will be healthier.”
Drawing on his experience as an activist in African-American neighborhoods of Seattle as well as a former Deputy US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, he mapped out a blueprint for healthy communities: new or improved sidewalks, better lighting, access to water and greenspace, a place for kids to play around, a place for aging adults and senior citizens to feel they belong.