Health Equity and Safe Routes to School

Not everyone has access to environments that support good health.  Overweight and obesity rates are significantly higher in some communities than in others; these difference are based on race and ethnicity, gender, age, and socioeconomic status.  Generally, the same communities that are at greater risk for overweight and obesity have far fewer parks and open spaces available for physical activity and recreation.[18]

A national study of 20,000 young people in the United States found that resources for physical activity – including parks as well as public and private recreation facilities – were distributed inequitably, with non-white and lower-income neighborhoods much more likely than higher-income white neighborhoods to have few or no such facilities.[19]  Other studies have found that communities with higher poverty rates and higher percentages of African-American and Latino residents tend to have significantly fewer parks and green spaces.[20]

At the same time, the streets in lower-income communities are more dangerous for people who walk or ride bicycles, due to an absence of protective infrastructure and street design.[21]  Injuries to people walking and bicycling are much more frequent in lower-income neighborhoods than in upper-income neighborhoods.[22]  Safe Routes to School can be a powerful tool in helping to increase physical activity for children while ensuring that children are able to walk and bicycle safely.