New Report from COEH Underscores Public Health Benefits of Urban River Parkways

Contact: Steven Maviglio, 916-607-8340

 

 

NEW STUDY: CALIFORNIA'S URBAN RIVER PARKWAYS IMPROVE HEALTH

Parkways Boost Physical and Mental Health Benefits Including Reducing Obesity, Diabetes

 

SACRAMENTO -- California's urban river parkways provide an important prescription to combat epidemic rates of obesity, diabetes, and other threats to public health, according to a report released today by Dr. Richard Jackson, one of America’s foremost authorities on the connections between land use and public health.

Dr. Jackson, who chairs the Environmental Health Sciences department at UCLA and formerly served as California’s State Health Officer and worked at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), says in this first-ever report on the impacts on health of urban river parkways that they can increase the physical and mental health of both adults and children. River parkways are trails and natural areas along rivers and creeks that link homes, parks, workplaces, and schools.

"There is no medicine or treatment that works as well to reduce the negative effects of obesity and related illnesses as physical activity, such as walking, running, and bicycling," notes Dr. Jackson. "River parkways, particularly in urban areas, are nearly irresistible because they provide the proper infrastructure and an attractive setting for engaging in physical activity. River parkways can benefit physical, mental, community, and environmental health, as well as the overall economic well-being of the population at large."

River parkways that include trails are smart public investments, notes the report. "Every $1 invested in trails for physical activity leads to nearly $3 in direct medical benefits and health-care savings. Promoting healthier lifestyles not only improves our quality of life, but offers a way to help drive down health care costs and preempt a host of preventable diseases," the report concludes.

That is critical, Dr. Jackson notes, in a state where CDC reports that less than half of all adults are as active as they should be, (meaning they do not meet the minimum recommended 2.5 hours of aerobic physical activity per week). In addition, 22% of adults report that they do not participate in any leisure-time physical activity.

The lack of physical activity is directly connected to our state’s chronic obesity rates. As of 2012, 25% of all adults in California were considered obese, leading to higher rates of heart disease, stroke, Type 2 Diabetes, hypertension, and some cancers. Communities of color are at even higher risks.

However, smart development of urban river parkways can help ensure everyone in this state, regardless of socioeconomic status, has an opportunity to enjoy outdoor spaces and live a healthier lifestyle. Developing these parkways also helps beautify and improve our cities, retaining and enhancing an important natural component of what are now urban habitats.

California communities working to establish urban river parkways include Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, Santa Ana, Fresno, Modesto, Stockton, and Bakersfield. However, funding for urban river parkways, assistance with the passage of Proposition 84 in 2006 that sparked development of dozens of urban river parks throughout the state, has been depleted. Fewer river parkway projects will be implemented unless new funding sources are developed.

At a Sacramento news conference held along the American River Parkway in Discovery Park, which receives about 8 million visitor days per year and generates $364 million for the local economy, Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former professional athlete, noted "This report underscores what we have know for many years in Sacramento – how essential our rivers are to our health by encouraging us to get outdoors and be physically active." The mayor noted the 23-mile Parkway one of the city's "crown jewels" that attracts citizens from all walks of life that utilize it for commuting, exercising, and other physical activities

Report summary/brochure: http://bit.ly/1xCORmQ

Full report: http://bit.ly/1s5AwzC

 

What Leaders Are Saying About River Parkways and Public Health

“The findings of this report that river parkways and other green open spaces are important to providing improved physical and mental health, cleaner air, and an improved quality of life are valuable, but not surprising. Unfortunately, kids in underserved communities, including my district, have been denied access to green and open spaces for far too long. As this report notes, restoring and enhancing our rivers, which tend to run through the heart of many of our cities, can provide affordable opportunities for residents of all income levels to get outdoors, recreate, exercise, live a more active lifestyle, and improve their health. I’m committed to ensuring that children regardless of where they live, or where their parents come from, have access to parks and greens spaces, including river parkways.”
California State Senator Kevin de León (Los Angeles)

"This report underscores what we have know for many years in Sacramento – how essential our rivers are to our health by encouraging us to get outdoors and be physically active."
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson

"There is no medicine or treatment that works as well to reduce the negative effects of obesity and related illnesses as physical activity, such as walking, running, and bicycling. River parkways, particularly in urban areas, are nearly irresistible because they provide the proper infrastructure and an attractive setting for engaging in physical activity. River parkways can benefit physical, mental, community, and environmental health, as well as the overall economic well-being of the population at large."
Dr. Richard Jackson, M.D.
Fielding School of Public Health, UCLA
Director, Center for Occupational and Environmental Health

“Getting kids outside will improve their health. The San Joaquin River Parkway provides children in the Central Valley with a great place to play, exercise, and develop a healthy lifestyle.”
Dr. Alex Moir, M.D.
Chief, Family and Community Medicine Residency Program
UCSF Fresno

“Our goal as Health Officers is to promote and protect health. The work of Professor Jackson and his colleagues shows us how urban river parkways can encourage physical activity as well provide a natural sanctuary in a busy urban area. For the Public to be healthy, we need good food, immunizations, but we also need places that energize the body and the mind. Well planned urban river parkways can benefit the whole community.”
Sara Cody, M.D.
Santa Clara County Public Health Officer

“As a pediatrician, mother, and bicycle commuter, I know first hand how important river parkways can be to public health. Sacramento’s American River Parkway attracts more than eight million visitor days per year serving as a major resource to improve public health by encouraging physical activity and more active lifestyles. The American River Parkway makes exercising fun,”
Dr. Victoria Akins, M.D., Kaiser Permanente, Sacramento

“We need to create healthy human habitats, places that offer clean air, clean water, walkability, nature contact, protection from injuries, and more. We have robust evidence showing how to design such places. Urban river parkways are a wonderful example; trails, greenspace, and contact with neighbors and friends are sound public health strategies. Moreover, they offer other benefits: environmental sustainability, disaster resilience, economic gains. Urban river parkways are truly a win-win.”
Howie Frumkin, M.D., Dr. P.H.
Dean, School of Public Health
University of Washington

“We are very fortunate have the Tuolumne River Regional Park in Modesto and Ceres. I have seen the significant difference this river parkway can make in helping our youth adopt more active and healthier lifestyles, build leadership skills and self-esteem, and set healthy examples for others.”
David Duran
Coordinator, Hispanic Youth Leadership Council
Assistant Superintendent (Retired), Stanislaus County Office of Education

"Creating places where people want to be active and play is an essential part of building healthier communities. When I think of what much of New York City's Hudson River waterfront in midtown and lower Manhattan looked like when I was growing up, with abandoned or rotting piers and an elevated highway, and its intensive use today as a wonderful space for walking, bicycling, skating, rollerblading, scootering, dancing and pretty much anything you can do outdoors, I have a graphic image of the power of transforming a riverfront into a park. This valuable new publication helps to highlight the extraordinary opportunities for transforming our cities' riverways into parkways."
Dr. Lynn Silver M.D., M.P.H.
Former Assistant Health Commissioner in NYC, former Health Officer of Sonoma County, Director California Project LEAN

“The Sacramento River Trail in Redding, CA provides multiple uses for residents who can use the river parkway to participate in a variety of physical activities as well as easily travel between key city locations - ultimately benefitting the health of parkway users. The River Trail is a prime example of a community that is able to facilitate healthy environments for exercise and community activities, and it should be expanded to other city rivers in the state."
Dr. Tom Watson, M.D., Emergency Medicine and Family Practice Physician, Shasta County

"In public health we know that walking is an important contributor to good physical and mental health.  It helps prevent and is part of the treatment plan for many chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.  Walking trails along rivers are inviting, encourage social interaction and help make exercise enjoyable."
Jonathan Fielding, MD MPH, Los Angeles County Public Health Officer.
 
“Urban river parkways realize our best intentions for protecting the health of all, and especially the health of children. They remind us of our vital bond to nature, a bond that we must protect and grow to ensure healthiest possible future for all.”
Aaron Bernstein, MD MPH Associate Director, Center for Health and the Global Environment , Harvard School of Public Health Pediatrician, Boston Children's Hospital


Video Coverage: 

http://youtu.be/CMcYa4yRp3Q

 

Media Coverage:

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