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Health on the Ballot in Austin

We know that in order to end cardiovascular disease and stroke, we need to improve health from every angle. One way to improve heart health is to make sure everyone in a community has good sidewalks, bike lanes and open space to get exercise. This summer, we were watching the Austin bond process to make sure there's funding for active transportation. 

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Everyone knows Austin has a traffic problem. Austin also has a health problem. One in four Austinites is obese, and obesity-related chronic illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease and stroke, are leading causes of death and a drain on the health care system. The largely preventable risk factors for heart disease and stroke often result from physical inactivity and poor diet.

To combat the burden of obesity on the city, it will take investments in the community from the ground up. Communities with access to safe and accessible walking and bike paths are correlated with lower body weights and reduced cardiovascular disease. Individuals and families who have access to walking and biking paths, parks, and recreation facilities nearby exercise more than those who lack access. 

In June, we were pleased to see Austin City Council Members voted to support active transportation projects in the proposed 2018 November bond package. In an 8-3 vote, City Council adopted a $925 million bond proposal that includes all of the American Heart Association's priority items, including:

  • $20 million for sidewalk rehabilitation
  • $15 million for Vision Zero pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements
  • $3 million to improve urban trails

The bond proposal also includes $174 million for parks and recreation improvements, including dollars for new parkland acquisition and existing parkland improvements. The City Manager will now craft specific language to be placed on the ballot in November. City Council will adopt this language in early August. Stay tuned!

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