Health

Diabetes Rates Higher in the Suburbs

By Ben Bull
Published November 01, 2007

More evidence today that living in the suburbs is bad for your health.

The Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) is reporting that residents of poorer neighbourhoods and the suburbs are more likely to suffer from diabetes.

"In the past four years alone," the report notes, "the number of adults with diabetes has risen by 50,000 in Toronto.

The post-World War II suburbs where residential communities on winding crescents and cul-de-sacs are separated from stores and services by wide busy roads have collectively forced people off the street and into their cars. Just buying a carton of milk means getting behind the wheel and driving to the nearest plaza.

As the report points out, "this phenomenon is even more pronounced in the 905 area cities surrounding Toronto."

The Star quotes study co-author Dr. Rick Glazier:

"If their neighbourhood is just completely unsafe and we're telling them they have to walk a half an hour every day and there's nothing to walk to - there are no sidewalks, the lighting is poor, the snowdrifts pile up - it's not that people aren't motivated, it's that they just can't," said Glazier.

The Star concludes, "In other words, simply telling people to get more exercise and eat healthier foods isn't enough to stem the tide of ill health washing over our city. Living conditions need to change."

We've heard the links between poverty and health before. But it's only now that the links between the sedentary lifestyles of the suburbs and diseases like diabetes are beginning to emerge. This is yet another reason for city planners to pay attention.

Ben Bull lives in downtown Toronto. He's been working on a book of short stories for about 10 years now and hopes to be finished tomorrow. He also has a movie blog.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 01, 2007 at 10:53:00

Richard Gilbert (the author of Hamilton: The Electric City) and Catherine O'Brien made a similar argument in their 2005 report, "Child- and Youth-Friendly Land-Use and Transport Planning Guidelines":

http://raisethehammer.org/article/073/

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By Genghis (anonymous) | Posted November 01, 2007 at 11:43:46

That makes absolute sense. When I lived in Mississauga the only thing that kept we active was a trail system designed into the neighborhood( MEadowvale/Erin Mills).this was one of the better designed suburbs developed in the mid 70's.Unfortunatly, the development now is woefully lacking in greenspace.

One thing I will bet.Some of the youths of Hamiltons inner city get a lot of excercise being chased by police( smiley)

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By Rusty (registered) - website | Posted November 01, 2007 at 13:56:42

a-ha! Couldn't resist a dig at the 'inner city' eh?!

Seriously, I don't know where this misconception comes from. I was chatting with a guy from London, Ontario on the VIA the other day and he told me, "I don't know how you can live downtown" (I live in downtown Toronto). He then cited the usual suspects of crime, decay, homelessness etc as the reasons he wouldn't bring his kids up there.

I have to say, now that I live downtown (I used to live in the burbs) - I just don't see this.

I'm not sure what the stats are but I'm sure the per capita crime is no worse in the inner city. We had our fair share of crime and problems in the burbs (in Dundas no less!) and, while I've probably encountered at least the same problems in downtown TO it's certainly no worse.

Far more importantly I FEEL safer being in a neighbourhood with lots of people around.

Of course there are scuzzy unsafe neighbourhoods everywhere but that is more to do with their design and make up than where they are or what their density is. A low-income enclave is always going to be more dangerous as is a neighbourhood with an inward facing design and limited public space. Density, done properly, can - and should - improve the safety of the neighbourhood rather than detract from it.

So, basically what I'm saying is - let's get away from this downtown bashing mentality. Unsafe neighbourhoods are about more than where you live. I know of many shady suburbs and likewise many pleasant downtown neighbourhoods. It's how we build them that matters not where they are.

Cheers!

Ben

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By Frank (registered) | Posted November 01, 2007 at 14:00:17

Genghis, there are a lot of youths downtown doing good things to. I live close enough to two plazas to walk or bike to them. The reasons I don't are because one has no bike racks and the second I'd have to cross Centennial which is like asking to get hit by a careless driver.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 01, 2007 at 14:28:03

Rusty wrote, "Seriously, I don't know where this misconception comes from."

It comes from sensational TV news anecdotes of violent crimes - if it bleeds, it leads - presented in the absence of any statistical context, leavened by a generous dollop of confirmation bias on the parts of both reporters and viewers.

Violent crime has been in decline for decades, but people who watch TV news are more frightened of violent crime than ever.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 01, 2007 at 16:58:18

when will people turn off their TV's and start enjoying life?? Crashes, killing and violence sell magazines and TV ratings. Not declining crime stats, safe driving and beautiful city scenes. It's all about money. Not reality.

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By Genghis (anonymous) | Posted November 01, 2007 at 17:51:57

The downtown bash about the kids was a wee joke as I live in the Lower City now as well.I was implying kids getting chased by getting caught in the act tagging graffitti everywhere.not so much about any violent crimes or robberies.I feel safe wherever I walk in Hamilton

I dont remember as much graffitti in Misissauga though( but that was 5 years ago and a boring suburb).I do remember the mailboxes and schools getting tagged though.Maybe its worse now

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By Ted Mitchell (registered) | Posted November 01, 2007 at 22:31:49

Maybe somebody will fund a study on golfers who walk versus cart around, for diabetes and BMI. Let me guess what the results will be!

They don't say in the article if higher rates in suburbs are corrected for income. I will try to dig that out.

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By Genghis (anonymous) | Posted November 01, 2007 at 22:41:53

With the advent of the "Big Bertha" clubs( frying pan on a stick) they drive the ball on the green in one shot.

Cant see much walking going on

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 02, 2007 at 10:36:05

good thoughts Ted....keep in mind, in Toronto the 'inner city' is the 'inner suburbs' not right downtown. income levels may play a role too.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 02, 2007 at 11:33:18

good thoughts Ted....keep in mind, in Toronto the 'inner city' is the 'inner suburbs' not right downtown. income levels may play a role too.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted November 02, 2007 at 12:10:24

City Planners AND school boards need to pay attention. Which means that the Ministry of Ed which created the funding formula that forces boards to close small walkable schools in order to build mega commuter schools, needs to pay attention too.

One of the things that's bugging me about the whole Hamilton Next series in the Spec is the deafening silence around schools and their place in our communities. The Spec writers tell us breathlessly about how all the Toronto refugees who are going to bring our inner city neighbourhoods back to life with no mention of the fact that the board is closing the schools in these neighbourhoods so they can build schools in Waterdown and Glanbrook. Nevermind the fact that the board is now seriously considering moving their nerve centre to the burbs too. I'd write an LTE but the thought of the Spec fills me with such ennui, I cn...hrdly...typ

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By highwater (registered) | Posted November 02, 2007 at 12:25:04

Oh wait! Problem solved.

www.amazon.com/kidsNworkout-KW-01-Kids-Exercise-Treadmills/dp/B000CRYLP6

Kill me now.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted November 02, 2007 at 12:57:15

Kids treadmills...nice touch. Helps with the whole losing your teeth part. Heaven forbid they forget to run when they're on there. I've never known a kid who, given the opportunity to get outside and play in the mud or sitting like a bump on a log watching Franklin would rather sit inside. Helps build an immune system to. WHERE ARE THE MUD PUDDLES???? Then again, that would mean that the parents would have to get up off the couch during CSI to clean the floors... Uh oh!!!

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