Can Your City Make You Healthy? New Research from Gallup and Healthways Shows That Active Living Environment – Parks, Walkability, Bike Lanes and Public Transit – Has Positive Relationship with Health and Well-Being
WASHINGTON & NASHVILLE, Tenn. (October 11, 2016)—Global well-being improvement leader, Healthways, a Sharecare company, and world-leading management consulting firm, Gallup, have released new research assessing active living factors within large and mid-sized communities across the United States. This report, part of the Gallup-Healthways State of American Well-Being series, examines the active living infrastructure within 48 medium and large metro communities across the U.S. and the respective impact on various aspects of residents’ well-being.
Gallup and Healthways analyzed four key components of a community’s built environment including walkability, bike-ability, availability of parks, and public transit structure to calculate an active living score. Based on this analysis, Boston is the number one active living community in the U.S., with San Francisco, Chicago, New York City and Washington D.C. rounding out the top five.
Residents in these five highest ranked active living communities have, on average, significantly lower rates of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and depression as compared to residents in the five lowest ranked active living communities. The highest active living communities also report better health behaviors including higher rates of exercise, healthy eating, and fresh produce consumption, and lower rates of smoking.
Communities around the country are taking an environmental approach to community health by creating vibrant, livable, walkable, and bikeable public spaces that foster active living and high well-being. Examples include:
- Albert Lea, Minnesota, a community that has established bike lanes and new sidewalks, adopted policies to reduce tobacco use, and started workplace programs to promote health and social interaction. These and other active living improvements helped Albert Lea increase the overall well-being of their residents by 2.8 points from 2014 to 2016, easily outpacing respective state and national trends. During that same timeframe, smoking rates dropped to less than 15%, below the national average of 18.5%; and residents who are eating their recommended amounts of fresh produce at least most days of the week rose to 62%, above the national average of 57.5%
- Since 2010, the California Beach Cities – Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach – have collectively secured over $8.1 million in transportation funding for walkability, bike-ability, and livability projects. These projects helped the Beach Cities reduce the number of residents who are above normal weight by 15% since 2010. Additionally, the smoking rate has declined by 17 percent bringing the smoking rate in the Beach Cities to 8.9 percent.
- The Iowa community of Muscatine added approximately 10 miles of new sidewalks and trails including a 10-foot-wide trail that now counts 10,000 pedestrian trips a year, improving community connectivity and making it easier for residents to move naturally. Since 2012, Muscatine has seen a 17 percent increase in the percentage of residents who exercise regularly, rising to 55.8 percent in 2016; and has seen a drop of 13.6 percent for those who report significant daily stress.
“Communities that want to promote well-being, balance city budgets, attract the best new workforces, and spur economic growth should prioritize investments that encourage active living,” said Dan Burden, director of innovation and inspiration, Blue Zones, LLC. “From protected bike lanes, mixed use development, trails, and wide sidewalks to landscaping and other amenities, it’s been proven that an active environment results in healthier citizens, steadier long-term growth, and a more vibrant economy.”
As the leading community transformation program in the country, the Blue Zones Project® is a growing nationwide well-being improvement initiative designed to make healthy choices easier—community by community—through permanent changes to environment, policy, and social networks. Founded by National Geographic Fellow and best-selling author Dan Buettner to leverage public and private partnerships, the Blue Zones ProjectÒ draws upon more than 200 evidence-based practices to help restaurants, schools, churches, and worksites make sustainable changes that encourage healthier choices.
“Sustainable, lasting well-being becomes achievable when residents, city leaders, businesses, schools, and other partners work together to the benefit of public health,” said Katrina Worlund, senior vice president of the Blue Zones ProjectÒ at Healthways. “In addition to healthier populations, communities benefit by lower healthcare costs, less chronic disease and improved productivity.”
For more information and to access the complete report, “State of American Well-Being: Active Living Environment in U.S. Communities,” visit www.well-beingindex.com/2016-community-impact.
About the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index
In 2008, Gallup and Healthways initiated a 25-year partnership merging decades of clinical research and development expertise, health leadership and behavioral economics research to track and understand the key factors that drive well-being. Together, the partnership has built the world’s largest data set on well-being, with over 2.5 million surveys to date of people and their perceptions of their well-being.
Launched that same year, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® provides unmatched, in-depth insight into the well-being of populations. Gallup conducts 500 telephone interviews a day with Americans to gather their perceptions of well-being, for a resulting sample that projects to an estimated 95 percent of all U.S. adults.
Gallup delivers forward-thinking research, analytics, and advice to help leaders solve their most pressing problems. Combining more than 75 years of experience with its global reach, Gallup knows more about the attitudes and behaviors of the world’s constituents, employees, and customers than any other organization. Gallup consultants help private and public sector organizations boost organic growth through measurement tools, strategic advice, and education.
Healthways, a Sharecare company, is a global provider of well-being improvement solutions and services. Dedicated to creating a healthier world one person at a time, the Company uses the science of behavior change to produce and measure positive change in well-being for our customers, which include employers, integrated health systems, hospitals, physicians, health plans, communities and government entities. Learn more at www.healthways.com.