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Fighting Prince George’s Battle of the Bulge

By: Tiffany Williams Jennings
Planner-Coordinator
Prince George’s County Planning Department, M-NCPPC

The beginning of a New Year often brings with it new plans to improve one’s health. Consider that to “lose weight” is ranked #1 on the list of Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions for 2012.

And rightfully so. The prevalence of obesity is a major concern across the nation. Sixty-nine percent of adults within the United States of America are overweight and/or obese. Within the State of Maryland the percentage is slightly lower at 66%. However in Prince George’s County, Maryland an alarming 71.4% of adults are overweight and/ or obese. (1)  
 

The County’s young people are not excluded from the obesity epidemic. Sixteen percent of youth ages 12-19 are obese in the County; higher than the State of Maryland baseline of 11.9%, yet lower than the national baseline of 17.9%.(2) The American Journal of Preventive Medicine uncovered a clear link between communities with access to grocery stores providing fresh fruits and vegetables and lower obesity rates in children. Would you be surprised to learn that in Prince George’s County over 70% of the restaurants are fast-food establishments?(3)

Research regarding the link between obesity and its resulting chronic diseases has demonstrated that communities designed in a way unsupportive of healthy and active lifestyles such as unsafe streets, inadequate sidewalks and lighting, trails and crosswalks, as well as crime and pollution can have a negative impact on walkability and bikeability resulting in people driving more and walking and biking less.  Moreover, "walkability,” as it is termed, has a direct and specific relationship to the health of residents in a community. A comprehensive study of walkability found that people in walkable neighborhoods do about 35-45 more minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week and are substantially less likely to be overweight or obese than similar people living in low-walkable neighborhoods. (4)


The way a community is planned—its land development patterns, transportation options and community design—can impact the health of those living in the community.

Plan Prince George’s 2035 will include a new community health element that incorporates access to healthy food and active living environments. This new element will address community health concerns through policy recommendations, land use planning, zoning and increased coordination amongst county and state agencies, community groups and non-profit organizations to better adverse conditions, improve the health of our communities, and build better places for all residents to live, work and play.

What top issues would you address to improve our county’s health?

Read the community health policy paper to learn more.


Sources:

(1) State Health Improvement Process (SHIP), Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
www.dhmh.maryland.gov/ship 
(2) Ibid.
(3) County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, July 2012, www.countyhealthrankings.org
(4) http://www.smartgrowthamerica.org/complete-streets/complete-streets-fund...

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What kind of a community does Prince George’s want to be? How do we map a strategy and what role do key issues such as economic development, transit, and infrastructure play in how we get there? Learn More >>