ISTPP Director Portney Leads Study on the Link between Sustainable Cities and Healthy Cities

November 12, 2017

In their study “Sustainable Cities and Healthy Cities: Are They the Same?”, Dr. Kent Portney, Director of ISTPP, and Dr. Garett Sansom, Associate Director of the Institute for Sustainable Communities, fill a critical gap in the literature on the relationship between sustainability policies and health outcomes. Researchers have theorized that a positive correlation exists between these two variables, but until now, no study has empirically examined this relationship.
Portney and Sansom hypothesize that cities with more extensive sustainability policies will have fewer people who have been diagnosed with chronic health issues. To assess their hypothesis, they use bivariate correlations to look at the relationships between each of three research-based sustainability indexes for the fifty-five largest US cities with each of two different measures of obesity. Multivariate analysis shows that cities with more aggressive sustainability policies and programs have healthier populations, even controlling for income, race, and age, which are known to affect health risks and outcomes.

Portney and Sansom find an inverse relationship between obesity rates and the enactment of sustainability policies. The authors note that these results must be interpreted with some caution due to limitations in the health data available specifically for cities. Even so, their findings point to a possible mechanism that sustainability policies could provide for counteracting chronic health issues associated with obesity.
Portney, Kent E., and Garett T. Sansom. 2017. “Sustainable Cities and Healthy Cities: Are They the Same?” Urban Planning 2(3): 45–55. DOI: 10.17645/up.v2i3.1018

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