Municipal Fitness: Poorer Cities Have Poorer Health
It's been well-documented that a high poverty rate is closely correlated with an elevated obesity rate, and this data from the American College of Sports Medicine backs it up. A confluence of intertwined factors may be at play, including access to affordable and healthy food choices, access to recreational facilities and childcare in order to attend those facilities, and overall nutritional education.
The Power of Swingsets: Could Boosting Parkland Be a Solution?
If municipal governments were to dedicate more of a city's total area to parkland, could that help alleviate high obesity rates? The data suggests that could be the case, as cities with higher percentages of parkland tend to have lower obesity rates. New Orleans and its massive wildlife refuge areas is a notable exception to the rule.
Barking Up the Right Tree: Dog Parks vs. Obesity
The correlation between more parkland and lower obesity rates also holds true for dog parks specifically. Zone more park areas dog-friendly and obesity rates could inch lower as more residents burn calories alongside Fido.
Strike Out: Baseball Diamonds Don't Bring the Obesity Rate Down
Interestingly, the number of baseball diamonds per 10,000 residents in a city doesn't appear to have a positive impact on obesity rates. If anything, it appears many of the cities with the most ball fields per capita -- Baltimore, Cleveland and Kansas City -- have some of the highest obesity rates in the country. Though maybe that's because the existence of ball fields doesn't really mean much if the city's poorest residents don't have the time or resources to get out and play. Also, let's be honest: There's a lot of standing around in baseball.
Free-Range Carrots: Not Keeping Obesity in Check
Like baseball diamonds, increasing the number of farmers' markets per resident also appears to have little effect on a city's obesity rate. That could be because farmers' markets have a reputation for being overpriced or located in wealthy neighborhoods. Some non-profits, like New York's City Harvest, have been trying to correct this disconnect by ensuring that pop-up farmers' markets reach the outer boroughs and making sure that residents are educated on how to use the sometimes unfamiliar produce available. New York also allows customers to pay for farmers' market purchases with EBT, or food stamps, and gives customers a $2 coupon for every $5 spent at farmers' markets in an effort to make farm-fresh food 40 percent more affordable.
Note: This StoryChart doesn't include data for all 50 of the cities included in the American College of Sports Medicine report. It depicts a sampling with several cities selected from each region.