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America is suffering from an obesity epidemic.
Just a few years ago, that statement would have raised eyebrows. But recently, obesity has taken center stage in discussions about public health. In 2004, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that poor diet and physical inactivity were quickly gaining on tobacco as the leading causes of preventable death in the United States. Since then, policymakers, researchers and consumers have begun to investigate and confront America’s obesity epidemic.
Even prior to the CDC's 2004 announcement, researchers had begun exploring the role that our living environments play in our levels of physical activity -- and, by extension, our chances of being obese or overweight. Perhaps the most seminal paper on this topic was released in August 2003, just prior to what continues to be a period of heightened awareness and intense activity around obesity.
“Relationship Between Urban Sprawl and Physical Activity, Obesity, and Morbidity,” was the lead article in that month's American Journal of Health Promotion. It was released in cooperation with the American Journal of Public Health as an unprecedented examination of how community design affects health.
The study essentially showed that as sprawling development increases, so do the chances that residents will be obese or have high blood pressure. People who live in sprawling areas tend to walk less than people in densely populated ones and, therefore, get less exercise. It might seem simple, but this seminal study continues to be a key weapon in the arsenal of advocates and policymakers trying to make the case for a robust response to the obesity crisis.
Burness Communications played the lead role in promoting this important report. By our estimates, more than 50 million people read, saw, or heard a media story about the study. With funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and Smart Growth America (SGA), Burness leveraged the participation of several active living, public health, governmental and research organizations to develop a comprehensive media strategy that included: