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Obesity and lack of physical activity are major public health problems in the United States. Well-designed, active living communities (ALCs) can help support physically active lifestyles. This study assessed attitudes of Hawaii decision makers in 2007 and 2013 to determine if priorities toward ALCs changed.
Elected and appointed state and county officials were mailed surveys both years. Respondents rated the importance of 23 specified problems, which included 1 obesity variable and 5 ALC variables.
The survey was completed by 126 (70.4%) respondents in 2007 and 117 (60.9%) in 2013. Among the specific problems, only obesity increased in rank from 14th to ninth place. Three variables fell more than 2 places: increasing traffic (fifth to seventh place), poorly planned development and sprawl (seventh to 11th place) and pedestrian safety (12th to 17th place). The other 2 stayed relatively the same: lack of pedestrian walkways, sidewalks, and crosswalks (16th to 15th place) and lack of recreational activities (22nd to 23rd place).
Across years, obesity concerns have increased but do not appear to be tied to increases in concern for ALC variables. More education for policymakers on the link between obesity, physical activity, and the built environment is necessary.
McGurk is with the Dept of Public Health Sciences, University of Hawaii at Mānoa, Honolulu, HI. Maddock is with the School of Public Health, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX.