President Obama requested suggestions on ways to tackle childhood obesity and gave the taskforce 90 days to respond. In May 2010 they produced a 120 page report “Solving the problem of childhood obesity within a generation”. Their main recommendations included the provision of healthy food in schools and increasing physical activity. The recommended amount of daily physical activity for children and adolescents is set at one hour per day. They found that less than 50% of boys and less than 25% of girls engaged at the recommended level of activity.
The built environment plays a part:
“How communities are designed and function can promote—or inhibit—physical activity for children and adults. The built environment consists of all man-made structures, including transportation infrastructure, schools, office buildings, housing, and parks. Children’s ability to be physically active in their community depends on whether the community is safe and walkable, with good sidewalks and reasonable distances between destinations.
Research is still emerging on the exact interaction of the built environment and the impact on childhood obesity. Yet, a series of research studies suggests that attributes of our current built environment, such as low density development and sprawl, have had a negative impact on health outcomes, contributing to obesity and related health problems.313 Several of these studies have found that areas with greater sprawl tend to have higher rates of adult obesity. The combination of greater distances between destinations as development sprawls outward from city centers and the lack of pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure contributes to eliminating walking and biking as options and to increased driving. One-fifth of all automobile trips in urban areas are one mile or less, and over two-fifths of these trips are under three miles,314 distances easily walked or biked if the proper infrastructure were available. Low-income communities in particular often have a higher number of busy through streets, (and) poor cycling and pedestrian infrastructure.”