In late March 2016, my travels took me Down Under to the beautiful city of Melbourne. I was jointly invited there by the Australian Heart Association and an organization named Victoria Walks, to speak at a meeting called Smart Urban Futures. This was a very different audience for me to speak to and one that was primarily made up of urban planners and city leaders who were there to learn about what they can do to make cities more liveable and healthy. Not surprisingly, walkability is increasingly seen as one of the most important dimensions to improve the health and wellbeing of cities in the future.
It was exciting for me to talk to this influential group about the power of walking to improve health. It is great for doctors to encourage patients to walk and to prescribe walking to treat and prevent disease, but if there is no place for our patients to safely walk then it’s unlikely they will do the walking they need to stay healthy. We know that people tend to walk more (and in turn are more healthy), when they live in cities that have a great public transportation system and less reliance on cars. So how can we design and modify our cities to make walking the safe, easy and fun thing to do? That was just one of the questions this meeting sought to answer.
This trip was very special for me because I got to take my son Matt. During my visit I also got the chance to catch up with a many great friends in Melbourne, including John Hawley, Louise Burke, Mark Hargreaves, Peter Brukner, Peter Larkins and Gary Zimmerman to name a few. Aussies are always great hosts and this trip was no exception as my friends arranged for Matt and I to see two Aussie Football League games at the world famous Melbourne Cricket Ground. There are few sports venues in the world as exciting as the MCG.
Of course we also spent most of our days walking around the beautiful city of Melbourne. It is one of the most walkable cites in the world with excellent public transportation and a network of parks throughout the city. If you have not been there I would suggest you put it on your short list of places to visit!
As always, I hope this blog finds you feeling well and walking every day. Please let your local politicians and urban planners know that they need to make our cities more walkable if we hope to curb the rising tide of chronic diseases that are mostly related to a sedentary lifestyle.