For the first time, researchers have found a direct link between sprawl and high-blood pressure. People living in the nation's most sprawling counties have higher rates of hypertension than do those living in the least sprawling counties. The same was true with obesity, which contributes to more than 200,000 premature deaths each year, and may soon overtake tobacco as the No. 1 health threat in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"The people living in the most sprawling areas are likely to weigh 6 pounds more than people in the most compact county," the study says.
The studies -- published in American Journal of Public Health and American Journal of Health Promotion -- were written by researchers at Rutgers University who used sprawl data from Smart Growth America, an advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., and health data provided by the CDC.
The bad news is that Atlanta is ranked fourth nationwide for sprawl, according to Smart Growth America, and waistlines and clogged arteries here fare no better. Good health apparently is the price to pay for Atlanta's love affair with the automobile.
"Clearly, in Atlanta our choices in walk-able neighborhoods are severely restricted. I hope that information like this helps us move past the well-intentioned rhetoric of recent years and toward making Atlanta a healthier region in all respects," says Smart Growth America's spokesman David Goldberg.
Starting Aug. 28, Atlantans can log onto www.smartgrowthamerica.org and click on data for 17 metro Atlanta counties. Data for other major metro areas, including Chattanooga, Tenn., and Augusta, Ga., will also be online.