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Healthy Cities – critical to our economy

I was once told that creating a healthy community was not the Mayor’s business. The facts however suggest it is central to the productivity of our communities and the latest statistics and dollars involved are profoundly alarming.

It is estimated that poor health related to obesity costs South Australian businesses nearly $300 million each year. Not surprising considering healthier people take less sick leave, are happier and thus are more productive and provide better customer service.

It is however, much more serious than that. The Federal government estimates that obesity costs this nation $60 billion. Nine million Australians are overweight and an additional five million are obese. That is nearly one in four Australians, with South Australia the most overweight State. In just 20 years the proportion of obese Australians has increased by 50%, officially overtaking smoking as the leading cause of premature death and illness.

Reality check; obesity is now the single biggest threat to public health in this country.

If any city is to be globally competitive, they must invest in healthy community and workplace initiatives because it simply makes good business sense. Research shows that the healthiest employees are nearly 3 times more productive than their unhealthy colleagues. Multiply that by every worker in Adelaide and you can appreciate why I’m passionate about the topic. A fat nation will make us an unhealthy, unproductive backwater with a massive future financial burden we simply cannot afford. A less productive and more expensive future is terrifying.

Cities must build infrastructure that is a part of the solution, however healthy communities start at home. The days are getting longer, the weather is warmer and there has never been so much to offer in the way of park lands activities and cycling infrastructure!

I can personally attest to the fact that it’s worth the effort. Just 30 minutes of exercise and a quality diet (which is generally cheaper!) every day can bear an amazing results. Truth is riding a bike or walking a little further is not going to kill you, in fact it will make you a better citizen that lives longer and contributes more to society. If we think it’s all about driving from home to the front door of our destination, we really are in big trouble.

If more people did just a little more physical activity it would save billions in taxes and be a better, more productive community in which to do business. I will continue to do everything within my means to make cities around the world healthier and ask you to be a part of a solution that is good for you, your city and country.

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