WalkBoston Supports Surgeon General’s Call To Action on Walking

WalkBoston Supports Surgeon General’s Call To Action on Walking

US Surgeon General Launches Campaign with National Call to Action on Walking: Effort highlights health benefits of walking while addressing barriers to access

Today, the United States Surgeon General issued a call to action to address major public health challenges such as heart disease and diabetes. Step It Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities articulates the health benefits of walking while addressing the fact that many communities unacceptably lack safe and convenient places for individuals to walk or wheelchair roll.

“We are thrilled that the Surgeon General is calling attention to the importance of walking and walkability to the health and well-being of Americans. We look forward to using the Call to Action as a stepping stone to making Massachusetts a safer, more convenient and more attractive place to walk,” said Wendy Landman, Executive Director of WalkBoston, Massachusetts’ leading pedestrian advocacy organization.

Data consistently show there are safety and accessibility issues that make communities less walkable. A 2013 study by the U.S. Department of Transportation, for example, found that three out of every 10 Americans reported that no sidewalks existed along any streets in their neighborhood. In many communities violence – and the perception of violence – may prove a barrier to walking.

“Everyone deserves to have a safe place to walk or wheelchair roll. But in too many of our communities, that is not the reality,” said Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, the 19th U.S. Surgeon General. “We know that an active lifestyle is critical to achieving good overall health. And walking is a simple, effective and affordable way to build physical activity into our lives. That is why we need to step it up as a country ensuring that everyone can choose to walk in their own communities.”

The Surgeon General calls on community planners and local leaders to create more areas for walking and wheelchair rolling and to prioritize the development of safe routes for children to get to and from schools. The call to action suggests that these designs should include sidewalks, curb cuts, crosswalks, safe crossings for the visually impaired and more green spaces. The Surgeon General further calls on city managers, law enforcement and community and public health leaders to address safety concerns by better maintaining public spaces, working with residents to promote a shared sense of community ownership, ensuring proper street lighting and fostering neighborhood watch programs.

The Surgeon General’s report discusses the health benefits of walking and calls on individuals to make walking a priority in their lives. Fewer than half of all U.S. adults get enough physical activity to reduce their risk of chronic disease, and only a quarter of high school students get the recommended amount. Physical inactivity contributes to heart and lung disease, diabetes and cancer, which account for 86% of our nation’s health care costs. Building walking into daily life can reduce disease and save money.

“We know that an average of 22 minutes a day of physical activity – such as brisk walking – can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes,” added Dr. Murthy. “The key is to get started because even a small first effort can make a big difference in improving the personal health of an individual and the public health of the nation.”

WalkBoston makes walking safer and easier in Massachusetts to encourage better health, a cleaner environment and vibrant communities. Founded in 1990, WalkBoston’s goal is to make walking and pedestrian needs a basic part of the transportation discussion. Current WalkBoston efforts include work on Vision Zero, a comprehensive and coordinated strategy to eliminate traffic fatalities and injuries in Boston, and the recent publication of a guide for low-cost traffic calming solutions. Low-cost fixes to calm traffic and enhance safety on municipal streets and state roads can be a great place to start, and can serve as catalysts for long-term change.

To read the Surgeon General’s Call to Action and learn how to promote walking and walkable communities, please visit www.surgeongeneral.gov
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Follow the Surgeon General on Twitter @Surgeon_General, on Facebook, and on Instagram – Join the conversation: #StepItUp


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