Dallas’ Renaissance Plan: A Response to the Second Wave of Environmental Justice

Dallas is the seventh largest city in the United States with a population exceeding 1.1 million citizens in the year 2000. Dallas is the fourth largest park system in the United States. The second wave of the environmental justice movement is a concept concerned with urban design, public health, and availability of outdoor physical activities. The upgrade to the 21,526 acres of parkland will amplify the quality of and access to outdoor recreation. The Dallas Park and Recreation Department’s “Renaissance Plan” is a response to  the increased demand of the citizens for new and expanded park facilities, recreation programs, open space areas, and unique recreational amenities. Physical activity is one of the health indicators for Healthy People 2010, and responding to these demands is a step forward of meeting its goals.  Dallas’ wide spectrum of park facilities will provide physical activities that will have positive health outcome to Dallas residents including the low-income population of the Dallas County and contiguous counties. Recognition of environmental exposure affecting economically and politically disadvantaged members of the community gave birth to the first wave of environmental justice movement. In addition to health problems related to environmental exposures, environmental justice (EJ) also cover disparities in physical activity, dietary habits, and obesity among different populations. Disparities on the access of public facilities and resources for physical activity (PA) is an EJ issue that has a negative impact on health among low-income and racial/ethnic minorities (Labilles, 2013). The 2007 cross-sectional study of Taylor et al. suggest an association between disproportionate low access to parks and recreation services (PRS) and other activity-friendly environments in low-income and racial/ethnic minority communities.  The prevalence of lower levels of PA and higher rates of obesity was observed in the minority population, which is a direct outcome of the prevalence of lower levels of PA. These differences violate the fair treatment principle necessary for environmental justice.

The treatment of health conditions associated with physical inactivity such as obesity poses an economic cost of at least $117 billion each year. Physical inactivity contributes to many physical and mental health problems.  The reported 200,000-deaths per year in the US is attributed to physical inactivity, and data from surveillance system indicate that people from some racial/ethnic minority groups experience disproportionately higher rates of chronic diseases associated with physical inactivity. Taylor, Poston, Jones & Kraft (2006) findings, provided preliminary evidence for the hypothesis that socioeconomic status disparities in overweight and obesity are related to differences in environmental characteristics. However, most of the studies had encountered epidemiologic “black box” problem, making it impossible to determine which characteristics of the environment (e.g., density of food service outlets or physical activity resources) may be most important (Labilles, 2013). Ellaway et al. found that body-mass index (BMI), waist circumference, and prevalence of obesity, and greater obesity risk is associated with low area or neighborhood socio-economic status.

References

Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2000.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2000.

Ellaway A, Anderson A, Macintyre S. Does area of residence affect body size and shape? Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1997; 21:304-308.

Labilles, U. (2013). Environment Matters: The Disproportionate Burden of Environmental Challenges. PUBH 8115-1 Environmental Health Spring Qtr. Minneapolis: Walden University.

Taylor, W., Floyd, M., Whitt-Glover, M. & Brooks, J. (2007).  Environmental Justice: A Framework for Collaboration between the Public Health and Parks and Recreation Fields to Study Disparities in Physical Activity. Journal of Physical Activity & Health, 4, supp 1, s50-s63.

US Dept of Health and Human Services. Physical activity and health: A report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion; 1996.

US Dept of Health and Human Services. Healthy People 2010: With understanding and improving health and objectives for improving health (2nd ed). Washington: US Govt Printing Office; 2000.

Wolf AM, Manson JE, Colditz GA. The economic impact of overweight, obesity, and weight loss. In: Eckel R, ed. Obesity Mechanisms and Clinical Management. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams, & Wilkins; 2002.

 

 

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