Making the Connection: Linking Policies to Improve Public Safety with Preventing Childhood Obesity

making the connection-linking policies to improve public safety with preventing childhood obesityPolicymakers express perennial concern about preserving and protecting public safety. Although crime has declined since the early 1990s and is currently at a significantly lower level than it has been in decades, the U.S. crime rate continues to rank amongthe highest in the industrialized world.

Large urban areas in the United States remain flashpoints for violence and property crime, which attract national attention and cause many to question the safety of their own communities. Moreover, residents who live in communities plagued with dilapidated buildings, unkempt lots, crumbling or nonexistent sidewalks, crosswalks and bike lanes, may not feel as safe as residents who live in well maintained communities. Research shows that people’s perceptions about crime and public safety impact their daily decisions, such as whether they feel comfortable using parks, walking in their neighborhoods or taking public transportation.

At the same time that policymakers are struggling with the issue of public safety, obesity rates across the nation remain high. While seemingly unrelated, these issues share common solutions, including designing communities that allow residents to walk, bike and play safely and addressing residents’ concerns about crime. By implementing “win-win” policies that reduce crime and improve the built environment, policymakers can improve the safety of communities in ways that also could help reduce the high rates of obesity across the nation.

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Leadership for Healthy Communities is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation