I heart healthy cities

The way we build our cities is having a profound impact on our health.

Planning policies in the twentieth century have left us with cities of low-density suburbs and disconnected streets, segregated land use and limited local employment, congested roads and inadequate public transport. We’ve created what the Heart Foundation calls an ‘obesogenic environment’ – and the results are there for everyone to see.

Eight of 10 Australians don’t meet the national guidelines for physical activity, and 63 per cent are overweight or obese. In fact, our rate of obesity is climbing faster than anywhere else in the world, and three quarters of us will be overweight or obese by 2025.

It’s not too late for us to get off the couch and out of the car – but we need to rethink the way we design and build our cities.

The Heart Foundation’s latest Blueprint for an active Australia says we need to transform our cities from low-density suburbs in which the car is king, to higher-density ‘walkable’ neighbourhoods. 

We need mixed-use buildings that add character and convenience to our streets, and more local jobs so people can walk or cycle to work. 

We need lots of green space and attractive streetscapes that make walking a charm, not a chore. 

And we need safe, secure neighbourhoods that encourage older residents 'age in place' and inspire young people to get out and enjoy the fresh air.

Reshaping our communities and cities is a big task – one that requires leadership from government, support from business and commitment from the community. 

But ultimately, each of us has a personal responsibility to reprioritise our health and fitness – we can’t blame everything on a busy life, a shortage of time or a lack of bus stop at the end of our street.

And that’s exactly why I’m taking up the ‘Canberra Celebrity Heart Challenge’. 

I’m joining a group of politicians and business leaders who have accepted challenge to raise funds for the Heart Foundation’s life-saving work, reduce our risk of heart disease, and inspire other busy Canberrans to take time out for themselves.  Join me!

Find out more at: www.canberrahearts.org.au

Catherine Carter is ACT Executive Director of the Property Council of Australia