Do You Live in a Healthy Neighborhood?

by SPARK


I was recently asked to propose a short list of indicators of a “healthy neighborhood.” The list was to be considered by the San Diego Childhood Obesity Initiative, which is a wonderful coalition working hard to improve environments and policies to support children’s health. I thought others might be interested in the list, so I am sharing it here.

The items represent my understanding of likely physical or built environmental influences on diet, physical activity, and sedentary behaviors. Many of the items are consistent with evidence. I believe the general concepts are sound, but the specific numbers and distances are best guesses. For present purposes I added a few priority indicators for healthy schools and homes.

Healthy food access

  • Supermarket or other source of affordable fresh fruits and vegetables within ½ mile of homes
  • No more than 2 convenience or liquor stores within ½ mile of homes
  • No more fast food than sit-down restaurants within ½ mile of homes
  • Community garden within 1 mile of homes
  • Weekly farmer’s market within 1 mile of homes

Facilities for active recreation

  • Park with play equipment in good working order within ½ mile of homes
  • Parks have walking paths
  • Daily youth activity programs for free or sliding scale fees in all parks
  • Private recreation facility with sliding scale fees within ½ mile of homes
  • Nearest school activity facilities is open for public use

Designing for active transport

  • Sidewalks on every street in neighborhood
  • Pedestrian aids (crosswalks, signal) at intersection with nearest busy street
  • Street pattern creates direct routes from homes to nearby destinations
  • Nearest shopping area has sidewalks and safe pedestrian crossings
  • Public transit stop within ½ mile of homes

Healthy school environments

  • Evidence-based physical education offered daily
  • Markings on preschool and elementary playgrounds to stimulate active play
  • Sidewalks, marked crosswalks, and traffic calming within ¼ mile of each school to facilitate safe walking and biking
  • Salad bars with multiple raw food choices daily in every cafeteria
  • Only healthy foods provided at school
  • Convenience stores and fast food restaurants are not within ¼ mile of schools
  • No food advertising in schools

Healthy home environments

  • No televisions in children’s bedrooms
  • Only healthy foods out on the counter for snacking
  • Sports and activity supplies available for both indoor and outdoor play
  • A bicycle or skateboard for every child

James Sallis

www.drjamessallis.sdsu.edu