Blocking off streets to allow children to play and turning apartment roofs into greenhouses would create a healthier Sydney, an expert says. The advice, from Dr Karen Lee, an urban planning expert, is equally appropriate for other cities.
Addressing a forum of NSW government planners, Dr Lee described building designs and active transport options that could increase physical activity and access to healthier food.
Only half of the NSW population gets the recommended 30 minutes of daily exercise, the forum heard, while 52.5% of adults are overweight and children's rates are fast catching up.
Dr Lee said the city could alleviate this problem by designing better buildings and "pedestrian realms".
"One of the things that's worked really well in New York and Chicago is they've created something called `play streets', which are single blocks of quieter streets that are closed off to cars at certain times so children and their families can come out and play," said Dr Lee.
She said schools could also apply for the permits for play streets, if they don't have enough space for physical education.
Dr Lee said the plan could particularly help Sydney and other cities as space shortages continue and schools go high-rise.
"Green roofs" are also another option the city could consider, Dr Lee said.
"They're good for the environment and decreasing heat generation from concrete buildings. They're also great places for children and adults to play or be active."
Dr Lee said governments should look at tax incentives for supermarkets and grocers to set up in high-density areas.
"It reduces the need for people to get in the car and drive to the supermarket. It also means people have access to healthy food in areas which are `food deserts'," she said.
The NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure said active and open spaces are one of its key plans to help reduce Australia's obesity rates.