First Lady Michelle Obama has kicked off a national campaign to fight childhood obesity which helps tie sprawl to unhealthy living.
In my home, we weren’t rich. The foods we ate weren’t fancy. But there was always a vegetable on the plate. And we managed to lead a pretty healthy life.
Many kids today aren’t so fortunate. Urban sprawl and fears about safety often mean the only walking they do is out their front door to a bus or a car. Cuts in recess and gym mean a lot less running around during the school day, and lunchtime may mean a school lunch heavy on calories and fat. For many kids, those afternoons spent riding bikes and playing ball until dusk have been replaced by afternoons inside with TV, the Internet, and video games.
Similarly, the U.S. Surgeon General released a report stating:
The car-dependent design of our communities has made it much harder for our children to walk to school and much harder for us to shop and do other errands entirely on foot or by bicycle.
- Build or enhance infrastructures to support more walking and bicycling.
- Support locating schools within easy walking distance of residential areas.
Now contrast that with Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson’s archaic position on sprawl:
Well, let me state it unequivocally: I love sprawl. I need it. I promote it. Oakland County can’t get enough of it. Are you getting the picture?
Then in his 2010 state of the county address, Patterson said he’d allocate $50K per year from the Brooksie Way run to healthy living mini-grants:
I want Oakland County to be the healthiest county in the United States and I want my residents to enjoy a healthy quality of life.
So, mayors, supervisors, community leaders, there is $50,000 available to you for programs which have as their sole purpose the improvement of the health of your residents.
Patterson clearly doesn’t understand the connection between sprawl, obesity and unhealthy living.
In the first such national study, health researchers found that people who live in counties marked by sprawl-style development tend to weigh more, are more likely to be obese and are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure
As for his $50,000 program, keep in mind that Oakland County gives $1 million a year to the Road Commission for Oakland County to build and expand roads.
Improving Oakland County’s quality of life is clearly in the backseat, if not the trunk.
And we are getting the picture.