The city state: How urban design affects our health


As a behavioural psychologist, James Sallis started out trying to understand how to motivate people to become more physically active. But, like many of his colleagues, he soon found that whatever worked only worked a little, on a few people, for a short time. Soon, Dr. Sallis came to see the modern urban environment as a big part of the problem. Place matters, he decided, and he set about investigating the design of public spaces and their influence on physical activity and the obesity epidemic… This week, Dr. Sallis also becomes the latest winner of the Bloomberg Manulife Prize for the Promotion of Active Health, a $50,000 award administered by McGill University. On his way to receiving the prize Dr. Sallis stopped by Toronto’s Metro Hall to share his ideas and findings with city officials and to talk about the significance of place with The Globe and Mail. How does the design of a city affect how healthy its population is? Throughout our whole history, people have walked for transportation. We’ve deleted that. We’ve designed that feature out of the world for many, many people and we now have the evidence that our planning and community design decisions and our transportation decisions are reducing activity and contributing to chronic diseases.