News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Creating a healthy environment

There are so many aspects of the Sisters 2040 Comprehensive Plan that point to positive aspirations and goals for our community. As an experienced health care provider living in this community, I feel an onus to speak to the development of additional fast food or convenience stores here in our community of Sisters.

Research and statistics are abundant and compelling. Fast food and convenience stores have been associated with a number of negative health effects, including:

1. Obesity: Fast food is often high in calories, fat, and sugar, which can contribute to obesity. Obesity is a major risk factor for a variety of health problems, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

2. Poor nutrition: Fast food and convenience stores often offer food that is high in calories but low in essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and fiber. This can lead to nutrient deficiencies and other health problems.

3. Chronic diseases: Consuming fast food and convenience store items frequently has been linked to a higher risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease.

4. Increased intake of sodium: Fast food and convenience stores often contain high levels of sodium, which can lead to high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

5. Poor dental health: Fast food and convenience store items are often high in sugar, which can lead to dental decay and other oral health problems.

6. Certain types of cancer: Fast food consumption has been linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancer, including colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer.

7. Reduced life span: Studies have shown that individuals who consume fast food and convenience store items frequently are at higher risk of premature death.

One also needs to consider the significant implications for health care costs. Chronic conditions related to fast food consumption can result in increased health care utilization, medication costs, and lost productivity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2018 the total cost of health care in the United States was $3.6 trillion, with chronic diseases accounting for 90 percent of health care costs. In addition, the cost of treating obesity-related conditions alone was estimated to be $147 billion in 2008.

How does building any more fast food or convenience stores lend itself to our growth management goals that “encourages growth to strike a balance between urban scale development and preserving the history, natural beauty, and character of the community”?

The detriments of fast food and convenience stores not only speaks to the growth management goals but also to the “livability” component of our comprehensive plan. By promoting the availability of healthier food options and reducing the number of fast food and convenience stores, the City can improve the quality of life for its residents. This can lead to greater social cohesion and a stronger sense of community. One only has to look at examples currently in our community where people can come together, share healthy food, conversation, all the while supporting local businesses.

Our comprehensive plan also addresses environment goals and policies to “maintain the quality of air, land, and water and improve community health.” Fast food businesses and convenience stores often contribute to environmental degradation, through increased waste generation and emissions from food production and transportation. By promoting the development of sustainable food systems that prioritize local production and reduce waste, the City can mitigate the negative environmental impact of fast food and convenience stores while also promoting healthier food options.

Aligning the development code with our comprehensive plan will help ensure we stay the course to achieve our goals and aspirations as an evolved, healthy community.

In summary, the negative health effects of fast food and convenience stores can be addressed through neighborhood design that prioritizes access to healthy food options and physical activity. By promoting a healthy environment, the City can support the health and well-being of its residents and create a more vibrant and sustainable community.

Sources available upon request.


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