Mexico City, Mexico; Londrina, Brazil; and Tulancingo, Mexico won top awards in a contest here today for urban renewal projects designed to promote physical activity and cut down on local obesity rates and other diseases related to inactive lifestyles.
“We hope that celebrating the achievements of these projects will inspire other cities in Latin America to begin to address the growing prevalence of physical inactivity, obesity, and chronic disease within their citizenries,” said World Health Organization (WHO) expert and head of the contest jury, Dr. Carlos Dora.
The awards, presented at the IV International Congress on Sustainable Transport, were part of the 2008 “Active Cities, Healthy Cities” contest, an initiative designed to recognize the efforts of municipal authorities, civil society, and the private sector in Latin American cities to develop initiatives that promote healthier, more active lifestyles.
Cities were awarded for their efforts in three separate categories: Physical Activity and Recreation; Public Space, Safety, and Civic Culture; and Sustainable Transport and the Environment.
- Physical Activity and Recreation: Mexico City’s “Muevete en Bici” (“Get on Your Bicycle”) program was named the winner in the Physical Activity and Recreation category. Each Sunday the initiative closes 10km of major thoroughfares to car traffic, temporarily transforming normally traffic-clogged streets into a gigantic public park enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of residents.
- Sustainable Transport and the Environment: In the Sustainable Transport and the Environment category, Tulancingo, Mexico took home first place for the conversion of an old railroad line into a safe, clean, and accessible walking and biking path. Complete with safety signage, an all-weather surface, and attractive landscaping, the path serves 2,500 people each day.
- Public Space , Security, and Civic Culture: The “Calzada para Todos” (“Sidewalks for Everyone”) project in Londrina, Brasil was the winner in the Public Space, Security, and Civic Culture division. The innovative program has worked to ensure that well-constructed, handicap-accessible sidewalks are available throughout the city, where over one-third of daily trips are on foot.
“These programs show that when cities can be designed for people - not just cars - leaders can significantly improve public health, the environment, and overall quality of life in their cities,” said Nancy Kete, director of EMBARQ - the WRI Center for Sustainable Transport, one of the co-sponsors of the event.
Between 40 percent and 60 percent of Latin American adults fail to engage in the recommended amount of physical activity, increasing their risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
“The urban sprawl typical in many U.S. cities is still not the dominant urban form in Latin America, but it is rapidly gaining ground. Latin American cities must act now if they hope to safeguard the health of both their cities and their populations,” said Dr. Enrique Jacoby, an official at the Pan American Health Organization and one of the organizers of the event.
The ‘Active Cities, Healthy Cities Contest’ has taken place every three years since 2002. This year’s competition was sponsored by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), EMBARQ - the World Resources Center for Sustainable Transport, the Center for Sustainable Transport-Mexico (CTS-Mexico), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Center for Sustainable Transport-Brasil (CTS-Brasil), the Avina Foundation, and the Fundación Ciudad Humana.
In addition to the three first place winners, several cities’ projects received honorable mention nods, including: Lima, Peru, for the construction of a series of public sports facilities; Tulancingo, Mexico, for a community dancing program; Durango, Mexico, for a recreation, sports and cultural park; and Mexico City, for the creation of an innovative “vertical garden” that covers the façade of a parking garage in the Mexican capital’s historic downtown, helping revitalize the area.
The EMBARQ website has a special section with videos, a photo slide show, and other resources.
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