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To Build a Healthier City, Begin at the Sidewalk – Bloomberg CityLab

Burdened with one of the highest adult obesity rates in the US, Oklahoma City went on a citywide diet in 2008, as then-mayor Mick Cornett challenged residents to collectively lose a million pounds.

The campaign involved more than just slogans. In a sprawling city built around cars — where “you literally can get a speeding ticket during rush hour,” as the mayor put it in his 2013 TED talk — Cornett committed to infrastructure-based change. The city built parks, added sidewalks and invested in new running and biking trails, as part of a nearly $800 million tax-funded investment to improve walkability and get residents moving.

By 2012, the city hit Cornett’s weight loss goal, and between 2014 and 2017, wellness reports showed declines in deaths from stroke and cardiovascular disease, as well as improvements in overall mortality rates. While there is still a long way to go — Oklahoma City remains one of the unhealthiest cities in the US today — the city’s ongoing urban transformation taps into something that researchers have long said: The built environments plays an influential role in the physical and mental health of a community.


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