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Mile Wide and an Inch Deep

Written by Akeem Brown, National Client Relationship Coordinator

North America has been in a period of massive urbanization since the turn of the 20th century. Folks have exchanged the shovel and plow for the briefcase and computer in hopes of greener pastures and better opportunities.

Urban centers have swollen in population as a result of this migration. With some cities like Toronto, Ontario and Dallas, Texas seeing an excess of 125,000 more residents in 2018 alone. This massive migration of people has had varying effects on city infrastructure. City officials and developers have had to decide to either build up and stay condensed or build out.

Urban Sprawl

One is not better than the other, but it is clear the direction most North American cities have taken: Urban Sprawl. Many cities have dispersed these new residents to the city limits and away from the core. Which means more roads, more cars and ultimately, less walking and interactions.

The creation of the suburbs is a classic example of the intentional spreading of cities to give everyone more “space.” While this seems fine on the surface, there is some long-term health issues with this approach.

Problems with Sprawl

Some obvious side effects of less walking include obesity rates. From a macro perspective, more sprawling cities which require cars have higher incidences of obesity. Obesity rates have more health externalities on the healthcare system because it can yield outcomes like diabetes, hypertension and a variety of cancers.

Another health concern with increased car use due to urban sprawl is car accidents. Which is one of the leading causes of death internationally, but more so in less walkable places like most cities in North America. In fact, Americans are almost four times as likely to die in a car

crash as Britons or Swedes.


Cities that are condensed and designed for walking can avoid the obstacles that Urban Sprawl must overcome. Companies and organizations who are concerned with workplace wellness will choose more condensed, compact cities for their workers to work and live. Developers and city planners will surely realize that their ability to attract talented and productive residents will depend on density and diversity, not sprawl. An organization, company and city that puts its people’s health and safety first is sure to maximize each person’s full potential.

Best Practices

  • Check out your neighborhood walkability ranking on

  • Choose dense cities with high walk scores to set up shop

  • If you plan or develop areas, consider density as your top value

About the Author

Akeem is a proud Canadian who grew up understanding the paradox of health: the harder you work on your health, the harder you can work on everything else.

He played basketball and football growing up and remain active to this day. He has a close group of friends while always looking to make new connections.

As he grew he understood how powerful sports and recreation was in his life so he decided to study it at the University of Alberta. He is now months away from receiving his bachelors. He is also a certified Workplace Health and Performance Ambassador (WHPA).

His interests include real estate, film making and art. He believes that nobody has a monopoly on good ideas and enjoys having conversations that have the potential to challenge his beliefs.



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