SDLP Health Spokesperson Mark H Durkan has called for increased investment for greenways and active travel schemes in the North of Ireland.
Mr Durkan’s comments coincide with NICE recommendations urging city planners to develop travel routes which prioritise pedestrians and cyclists.
The Foyle MLA said: “Prioritising the expansion of our greenways and subsequently encouraging active travel is key in tackling a myriad of issues here.
“Ring-fencing investment in this area could have far reaching benefits for health and well-being and of course the environment.
“Identifying a need for increased physical activity, in conjunction with other interventions, NICE advised the investment in greenways infrastructure would achieve a reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes and the promotion of mental wellbeing.
“We need to reassess how we treat some of the biggest health problems facing our communities.
“By taking small steps to incorporate active travel into daily life we can tackle head on the ever-increasing numbers of people suffering from poor health.
“The successive financial savings could potentially be utilised in the maintenance of these greenways or put back into the Department of Health- the ripple effect of the aforementioned benefits are seemingly endless.
“By expanding greenway routes to Strathfoyle, Muff and Buncrana, the important growth of cross-border networks will undoubtedly maximise the modal shift. We need to focus on getting people out of their cars and on their bikes-or feet when possible.”
He concluded: “By championing a more active lifestyle and providing safer, attractive routes of travel we can help boost the decline in public health.
“Of course this is not a one solution fits all approach but it is a step in the right direction, towards a healthier more sustainable Northern Ireland.”