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December 2008 Edition

Healthy Living
Three "Healthy Cities" Win 2008 Awards

Biking on car-free streets in Mexico.
Biking on car-free streets in Mexico. Photo EMBARQ/World Resources Institute
Two cities in Mexico and one in Brazil were the 2008 winners of the "Active Cities, Healthy Cities" contest, which honors urban renewal projects that promote healthier,more active lifestyles.

The awards were presented during the 4th
International Congress on Sustainable Transport,
held in Mexico City in late October.

Mexico City took first place in the "physical activity and recreation" category for Muévete en bici ("Get onYour Bike"), an initiative that closes off 10 kilometers of city streets each Sunday to create a giant public park. Hundreds of thousands of residents use the traffic-free streets.

Tulancingo, Hidalgo, in central Mexico, won in the "sustainable transport and environment" category for turning an old railroad line into a safe, clean, and
accessible walking and biking path that attracts 2,500 people per day.

Healthy Cities Awards LogoLondrina, Paraná, in southern Brazil, won in the "public space, security, and civic culture" category for its Calçada para todos ("Sidewalks for Everyone") project, which has worked to make sidewalks safe for pedestrians and accessible to people with disabilities in a city where one-third of daily trips are by foot.

The "Active Cities, Healthy Cities" contest was launched in 2002 to encourage urban development in Latin America that is conducive to healthy living. Chronic disease experts say that throughout the region, an estimated 40-60 percent of adults fail to engage in the minimum recommended amount of physical activity, thereby increasing their risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other chronic diseases. The physical environment--and particularly cities organized primarily around cars--is a major part of the problem.

"The urban sprawl typical in many U.S. cities is still not the dominant urban form in Latin America, but it's rapidly gaining ground," said Enrique Jacoby, an expert on healthy lifestyles at the Pan American Health Organization's (PAHO). "Latin American cities need to act now to safeguard the health of both their cities and their populations."

Tulancingo, Mexico, turned an unused railway line into 19 kilometers of trails.
Tulancingo, Mexico, turned an unused railway line into 19 kilometers of trails. Photo EMBARQ/World Resources Institute
Cities that received honorable mentions included Lima, Peru, for constructing a series of new public sports facilities; Tulancingo, Mexico, for a community dance program; Durango, Mexico, for a recreation, sports, and cultural park; and Mexico City for a "vertical garden" that helped revitalize a downtown area of Mexico's capital.

"We hope that celebrating the achievements of these projects will inspire other cities in Latin America to begin to address the growing prevalence of physical inactivity, obesity, and chronic disease within their citizenries," said Carlos Dora, a chronic disease expert at the World Health Organization (WHO) and head of the jury for the contest.

The "Active Cities, Healthy Cities" contest is sponsored by PAHO, EMBARQ-World Resources Center for Sustainable Transport, the Center for Sustainable Transport-Mexico, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Center for Sustainable Transport-Brazil, the Avina Foundation, and the Fundación Ciudad Humana.