Mayor Thomas M. Menino today launched Fit City Boston, an initiative to examine how Boston’s urban environment impacts resident health, and to set a plan for transforming Boston into the healthiest city in America. The initiative will examine how community design, social policies, and resource distribution impact daily choices and physical health.
More than 150 local and national planners, architects, developers, public officials, academics, and residents discussed the great strides that Boston has made in promoting health and health equity, and participants worked throughout the day to chart the next steps for building on this progress.
“Some factors that affect health are personal decisions, but others are out of an individual’s control – like whether there are spaces to walk and play outside,” Mayor Menino said. “We already have many of the world’s leading health institutions and leaders in design, planning and development here in Boston, as well as a revitalized harbor and world-class parks system. Fit City Boston will bring all these resources together to help ensure our city’s built environment allows all Bostonians to achieve their optimal health.”
More than half adult Bostonians are obese or overweight, which can lead to preventable chronic health conditions like obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and asthma. Black, Latino, and other communities of color, as well as vulnerable populations, are disproportionately affected by these diseases. For example, the hospitalization rate for asthma among Black children under age 5 is four times the rate of White children. These health problems cannot be solved by public health or health care alone. Solutions are embedded in community design, social policies, and resource distribution that impact the choices residents have and make every day.
“Fit City Boston recognizes that how communities are designed and developed directly affects which residents have easy access to physical activity, nutritious food, healthy housing, and clean air,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, a member of the initiative steering committee. “While we work to improve individual and community health, it is increasingly important that we focus on the physical places where we live, work, and play, and their effect on health, as well. Fit City Boston gives us the opportunity to get new perspectives and tap into new resources for our work.”
The Fit City Boston initiative will:
- Build on the best examples of work already underway to improve Boston’s built environment to improve health.
- Promote the exchange of ideas for building healthier, more sustainable and more equitable urban environments in Boston with positive economic development and business results.
- Develop plans to take best practices to scale, institutionalize proven ideas, and set a big picture vision for future work.
Partners in the initiative include the Boston Parks and Recreation Department, the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the Boston Transportation Department, the Boston Society of Landscape Architects, the Boston Society of Architects, Enterprise Community Partners, the Harvard School of Public Health, and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. The summit was sponsored by Boston Properties and The Boston Foundation.
“Boston is truly fortunate to be the “living lab” for many researchers from our great academic institutions,” said Dr. John D. Spengler, professor and director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard School of Public Health and today’s keynote speaker. “Working with city schools to reduce obesity, with the housing authorities on asthma, pest control and smoking cessation, planning agencies on climate adaptation and citizens of South Boston and Chinatown concerned with traffic impacts on their health, faculty and students are helping to shape Boston’s future.”
“As the ultimate goal of sustainable design is the health, happiness, and safety of people, social sustainability and environmental justice must fit within the Boston Society of Architects’ advocacy agenda. This summit presents a great opportunity for the BSA and our partners to contribute to one of Mayor Menino’s lifetime legacy projects: making Boston a healthier place to live,” said Mike Davis, president of the Boston Society of Architects. “As we convene with multidisciplinary experts from the Boston Public Health Commission, the Harvard School of Public Health, Partners HealthCare, Enterprise Community Partners, and many other private and public organizations, we hope this will be the beginning of a transformational exchange of ideas.”
The initiative is modeled after Fit City New York, which is co-hosted by the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter and the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.