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Survey: Income, Access Hamper Healthy Living in Colorado

A new report shows many Coloradans face barriers to health-promoting activities such as walking, cycling, and accessing fresh food where they live, work and play. Credit: Wavebreakmedia/iStockphoto
A new report shows many Coloradans face barriers to health-promoting activities such as walking, cycling, and accessing fresh food where they live, work and play. Credit: Wavebreakmedia/iStockphoto
November 23, 2015

DENVER - How much money you make and your ethnic background have a big impact on neighborhood infrastructure and your chances for a healthy life, according to a new report by the Urban Land Institute and Colorado Health Foundation.

The survey found more than half of the state's residents say they can't walk to a fully stocked grocery store, and more than one-in-three don't have easy access to outdoor recreation. Karen McNeil-Miller, president and CEO of the Colorado Health Foundation, says some Coloradans face bigger barriers than others.

"Particularly low-income and Latino people were more likely to report their communities lacked adequate green space, bike lanes, the area had too much traffic or the area had too much crime," she says. "To make it safe for them to be out with their children walking or biking."

McNeil-Miller notes 49 percent of Latinos reported lack of recreation areas compared with just 31 percent of whites, and nearly half of people earning less than $25,000 a year said their neighborhoods didn't have enough outdoor spaces or bike lanes.

The survey shows current land-use and design patterns are at odds with the healthy lifestyle many Coloradans say they want.

More than half prefer neighborhoods where they don't have to drive a car, 87 percent ranked the quality of the environment as a top priority, and a majority want access to healthy food, green space and walkable neighborhoods.

McNeil-Miller says health goes well beyond visits to a doctor's office, and good community design can contribute to and even reverse troubling health trends.

"Health is everyone's business," she says. "So if you're an urban planner, how healthy are we making these neighborhoods? Are we building neighborhoods with sidewalks, are we building neighborhoods with bike lanes? Where we live has a lot to do with how healthy we can be."

McNeil-Miller says she's hopeful the report will be a tool leaders across the state can use to help improve the health of all Coloradans, regardless of income, age or ethnicity.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO