158664 Building Healthy Communities for Active Aging: A Public Policy Approach to Improving the Health of Older Adults

Tuesday, November 6, 2007: 4:45 PM

Kathy Sykes , Aging Initiative, US EPA, Washington, DC
The U.S. EPA's Aging Initiative is spearheading a multi-agency effort: “Building Healthy Communities for Active Aging.” The program's goal is to promote collaboration among local planners, public health profesionals and aging advocates by integrating smart growth design and active aging concepts and programming.

How we design, live in and move about our communities directly affects our health. Particulate matter, ozone and waterborne disease outbreaks pose health problems disproportionately among older adults. Breathing unhealthy air exacerbates chronic conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, and diabetes. In 2004, 23% of people 65 and older lived in a county with poor air quality. Fine particle pollution has been linked to cardiac arrhythmias, heart attacks and premature death. Ozone can exacerbate COPD or asthma.

Billions are spent annually to address heart disease, stroke and chronic lung disease each of which can be exacerbated by air pollution. Local planners and community health care providers need to recognize and minimize the exposure of their elders to pollutants through smart land use policies. In many communities local zoning can be a barrier to creating walkable and bikeable communities. Traffic calming practices, better lighting, and well marked and timed pedestrian crossings can create a friendly environment.

Only about 21% of the population 65+ reported engaging in regular physical activity. Regular physical activity reduces risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Implementing Building Healthy Communities for Active Aging will lead to healthier communities for our older citizens.

Learning Objectives:
1. Understand how proven smart growth principles can improve environmental health for older adults. 2. Understand what pollution sources can result in exacerbating chronic health conditions such as heart disease and stroke, COPD and diabetes. 3. Recognize how community planning can greatly reduce air and water pollution and increase the walkability of a community.

Keywords: Community-Based Public Health, Environmental Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Any relevant financial relationships? No
Any institutionally-contracted trials related to this submission?

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.