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September 2007 Issue Guide

Eliminating the Barriers to Healthy Living

Our health is largely determined by where we live, work and play. Research shows that how neighborhoods and cities are designed affects numerous health conditions such as heart disease, asthma, diabetes, osteoporosis, depression and some cancers. According to the Institute of Medicine, improving health in the 21st century will require new approaches to environmental health, including strategies to deal with unhealthy buildings, urban congestion, poor housing, poor nutrition and environmentally-related stress. Barriers to healthy living include our lack of access to healthy and organic foods, areas where we can exercise and alternatives to fast food and traditional "soul food."

In his book Health and the Built Environment: The Effects of Where We Live, Work and Play, Henry Louis Taylor explores the role played by the built environment in causing health problems among "inner city" residents, with a particular emphasis on the African American community. The environment produces many barriers to wellness for Black women who are already impacted by the intersection of racism and sexism. These barriers to active living and a healthy lifestyle include crime, violence, fear, inadequate food security, dilapidated housing, and poorly maintained sidewalks and streets. These conditions are stressors which are exacerbated by poverty, joblessness, difficult work situations, the struggle to make ends meet, and cultural and financial obstacles to accessing quality health care.

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