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Local Planning Commissions Look To Improve Health With Design

Access To Paths, Bike Lanes Could Curb Conditions Like Obesity, Officials Say

Michael Leland/WPR

Some regional planning commissions in Wisconsin are focusing on municipal development as a tool to improve residents’ health.

In Dane County, the Capitol Area Regional Planning Commission is utilizing a $130,000 grant from the American Planning Association, a national group that guides city development.

The commission’s Steve Steinhoff said they hope to use urban planning and design to reduce chronic conditions like obesity and diabetes.

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Steinhoff said that municipalities in Dane County would “measure how conducive their communities are to walking and biking and what the health outcomes, such as obesity rates of those are, and then be able to propose changes to improve the physical activity, maybe new sidewalks, new bike lanes.”

Communities are using urban planning to influence health in various ways. For instance the Fox Valley has a Safe Routes to School program, touted as a way to increase physical activity, reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality.