Getting people up and moving is the aim of a new study looking to determine just how walkable Tasmanian towns are.
Conducted by the University of Tasmania's Menzies Institute for Medical Research, the study has been made possible by a $571,000 grant from the Medical Research Future Fund's Preventative and Public Health Research Initiative.
The Australian Government initiative invests in research testing innovative approaches to preventive and public health issues, including ways of keeping people out of hospital.
The Menzies study aims to develop benchmarks and online tools to support people living in rural and remote locations to live healthier and more active lives.
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Associate Professor Verity Cleland, whose work investigates the factors that lead to some people adopting healthier physical activity behaviours over others, said Tasmania was the ideal setting for the research.
"Tasmania is the only state where more residents live outside the capital city, and our health outcomes are among the worst in the country," she said.
"This funding gives us a fantastic opportunity to partner with the Tasmanian Department of Health and the Local Government Association of Tasmania and work with communities to help get them up and moving."
Associate Professor Cleland said the study would be designed with community organisations to create a tool establishing how walkable their towns are, while identifying priority areas for action.
"We know that many regional communities don't have safe footpaths or appropriate street lighting to make walking or cycling viable choices for getting around or exercising, and less than half the adult population do the recommended daily amount of physical activity," she said.
"Making it easier to walk places is common sense, especially when we know that rural and regional Australians do less physical activity than their city-based counterparts."
The study aims to make online tools available to rural communities across Australia and around the world.
Menzies Institute director Distinguished Professor Alison Venn said it was an important first step towards improving the health outcomes of Tasmanians.
"Physical inactivity increases the risk of early death and chronic disease and costs Australia an estimated $13.8 billion a year," he said.
"By improving the environments people live in, and making them more conducive to being active, we can find new ways to promote good health."
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