CDC and Public Health Community Lines Up Behind Complete Streets

August 4, 2009

From Barbara McCann, on July 29th, 2009:  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that communities adopt complete streets policies in their fight against obesity. The development is one in a new flurry of study results, meetings, and reports from the public health community are pointing the way toward complete streets policies as an important tool in the fight against the obesity crisis.

This week the CDC pushed beyond its traditional comfort zone to recommend policy strategies for obesity prevention, and outlined them in a report in the influential Morbidity and Mortality weekly report (MMWR). Six of the 24 recommendations relate directly to complete streets and smart growth, with one making specific reference to complete streets: enhance traffic safety in areas where people are or could be physically active. The suggested measure for communities to use is as follows:

  • Local government has a policy for designing and operating streets with safe access for all users which includes at least one element suggested by the National Complete Streets Coalition (
  • This measurement assesses whether a community has a policy for all-user street design, such as the Complete Streets program. Specific elements of the measurement are based on Complete Streets policy.

The other recommendations include:

  • Enhance infrastructure supporting walking.
  • Enhance infrastructure supporting bicycling.
  • Improve access to public transportation.
  • Zone for mixed-use development.
  • Support locating schools within easy walking distance of residential areas.

And another represents the way many communities are pursuing complete streets:

  • Participate in community coalitions or partnerships to address obesity.

The new strategies were introduced at CDC’s Weight of the Nation conference, with a strong focus on environmental change that was previewed in a prominent USA Today story that discussed complete streets.

To read more about the study and the economic impact of obesity, you can check out the following articles: