Active living was the focus of a free forum in Hobart this month, featuring world-renowned expert Professor James (Jim) Sallis.
Professor Sallis is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California but is also a Professorial Fellow at the Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, which he visits regularly.
He pioneered research that examined the links between physical environments and physical activity levels, examining multiple countries over many years.
While visiting Hobart, Professor Sallis also met with the Premier and Health Minister to talk about the benefits of building cities that make it easier for people to be physically active.
At the forum, Prof Sallis said you can’t design cities to move cars and people at the same time, you have to choose your priority.
Helping people to be more active is essential because of the number of diseases that physical inactivity contributes to.
New US physical activity guidelines send the message that “every minute of physical activity counts”, and have added six more cancers to the two that physical inactivity is known to contribute to.
Walkable neighbourhoods get people moving, regardless of income levels, cost governments less to maintain, and increase retail activity and property prices.
Prof Sallis had spent some time in Hobart before the forum and commented that the city had the bones to be walkable because it had been built long before cars took over roadways.
The Elizabeth Street Mall was a good first step but decision makers should be bold and expand pedestrian areas.
He rode out to MONA on the Intercity Cycleway and said he was surprised more people were not using it but acknowledged that there wasn’t a lot to see once the path moved away from the river. He suggested coming up with attractions along the cycleway to bring more people to it, especially near the intersections.
The forum was organised by Public Health Services in the Department of Health, the Heart Foundation, University of Tasmania and Local Government Association of Tasmania.
Other speakers at the forum included Heart Foundation Policy Advisor, Keith Brown; Menzies Institute Senior Research Fellow, Dr Verity Cleland; Local Government Association of Tasmania Senior Policy Officer, Penny Finlay; and Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute Head of Professional Services, Dr Iain Butterworth.