Food & Activity Environments
Our surroundings affect how healthy we are. Yet, too often, our communities don’t provide the conditions necessary to eat well and be active. In many cases, this leaves adults and kids with easier access to fast food than fresh produce, more broken sidewalks than safe parks, and a greater chance of getting sick than living well. And the ubiquity of food and beverage marketing only complicates the matter. Advertisers are increasingly finding new ways to sidestep parents and market high-calorie, nutritionally bankrupt products directly to youth. With advertising now reaching children and teens through the Internet and cell phones, even most vigilant parents are fighting impossible odds to keep their kids healthy.
the path to success
Healthy populations live in communities that offer easy access to nutritious, affordable food and safe places to exercise and play. Supporting healthy public policies can help us get there. Examples include stricter regulations to reduce junk food marketing to kids; smart growth zoning laws, which locate homes closer to schools and public transportation, making it easier for people to walk more and drive less; and joint use agreements, which allow schools and communities to share resources like gyms and athletic fields, giving people more places to be active.
At BMSG, we help advocates communicate to policymakers and the public that people's environments affect their health. Since 2004, we have been providing training and technical assistance to the community-based advocates of The California Endowment's Healthy Eating Active Communities and Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Program. In 2009, we worked with the Joint Use Statewide Task Force to develop jointuse.org, a website that gives visibility to the connection between school-community partnerships and health. We also helped advocates at the California WIC Association fine-tune their messages about the community-wide health benefits of breastfeeding.
Strategic zoning and land-use policies can be used to help foster healthy food environments. But is the health argument enough when making the case for these policies? We analyzed legislative debates and news depictions of fast-food land-use ordinances to help advocates better understand various arguments for and against zoning.