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Fit City Boston aims to make Hub the healthiest city in US

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  May 7, 2013 01:54 PM

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Mayor Thomas M. Menino kicked off a new initiative Monday intended to transform Boston into the healthiest city in the country, his office announced.

Fit City Boston will examine how the city’s environment affects the health of its residents through community design, resource distribution, and social policies, the mayor’s office said. It will build on progress made in recent years, promote the sharing of new ideas for improving the urban environment, and work to expand the use of successful programs.

“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,” Menino said in a statement.

“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,” he said. “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.”

On Monday, more than 150 academics, architects, developers, planners, public officials, and residents gathered at a forum sponsored by Boston Properties and the Boston Foundation to talk about the progress the city has made in supporting the health of its residents and what more it can do.

One issue it must tackle is obesity. More than half of the city’s adult population is overweight or obese, and people of color are disproportionately likely to face weight issues, as well as asthma, Type 2 diabetes, and other illnesses that can be brought on or worsened by obesity.

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission and a member of the initiative steering committee, said in the statement that many aspects of the urban environment can affect residents’ health.

“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,” Ferrer said. “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.”

Modeled after a similar program in New York City, the initiative is a public-private partnership that includes city agencies as well as 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.

Last year, Boston launched a citywide campaign, dubbed Boston Moves for Health, that challenged Bostonians to shed a collective 1 million pounds over the next year. At last count, 74,935 pounds had been lost.

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @jeremycfox.
Follow Downtown on Twitter: @YTDowntown.

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