How cities are making us sick

Planning policies of the 20th century have left cities with low-density suburbs and disconnected streets, segregated land use and limited local employment, congested roads and inadequate public transport.

We’ve created what the Heart Foundation calls an “obesogenic environment” and the results are there for everyone to see: eight out of 10 Australians don’t meet the national guidelines for physical activity, and 63 per cent are overweight or obese. In fact, our rate of obesity is climbing faster than anywhere else in the world, and three quarters of us will be overweight or obese by 2025.

The Heart Foundation’s latest “Blueprint for an active Australia” says we need to transform from low-density suburbs, in which the car is king, to higher-density, walkable neighbourhoods.

We need:

  • mixed-use buildings that add character and convenience to our streets;
  • more local jobs so people can walk or cycle to work;
  • lots of green space and attractive streetscapes that make walking a charm, not a chore;
  • secure neighbourhoods that encourage older residents to “age in place” and inspire young people to get out and enjoy the fresh air.

Reshaping our communities and cities is a big task – one that requires leadership from government, support from business and commitment from the community.

But ultimately, each of us has a personal responsibility to reprioritise our health and fitness – we can’t blame everything on a busy life, a shortage of time or a lack of a bus stop at the end of the street.

That’s why I’m taking the “Canberra Celebrity Heart Challenge” by joining a group of politicians and business leaders who have accepted the challenge to raise funds for the Heart Foundation’s life-saving work, reduce our risk of heart disease, and inspire other busy Canberrans to take time out for themselves. Join me!

Find out more at