NIEHS and American Public Health Association sponsor program

November 13, 2003

In an effort to better understand the linkage between community design and its impact on public health, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, in conjunction with the American Public Health Association's Built Environment Institute, is sponsoring a three-day program titled "Health by Design: Identifying Approaches For Building Sustainable Environments That Actively Improve Human Health."

The program, which will be held at the American Public Health Association's annual meeting November 16 - 19 in San Francisco's Moscone Convention Center, will bring together scientists, public health officials and members of the general public for a series of scientific sessions and symposia on the relationship between community development and disease endpoints such as obesity and high blood pressure.

The Built Environment Institute is an organization developed by the Environment Section of the American Public Health Association to assist in the identification of planning, design and lifestyle choices that would promote healthy and sustainable living, and more human-focused growth. Identifying mechanisms by which the built environment adversely impacts health and identifying appropriate interventions that reduce or eliminate harmful health effects are core Institute objectives.

"This three-day program will give participants a chance to better understand the important issues related to measuring and modeling the health impact of the built environment, and to identify opportunities and challenges faced by architects, planners and developers in designing and building healthy and sustainable human-focused communities," said Neal Rosenblatt, M.S., epidemiologist and acting health program administrator with the Kentucky Department for Public Health, and chair of the Built Environment Institute.

Following a field trip on Sunday, November 16 to explore green design methods used in the construction of the San Francisco Main Library and learn about the master plan for a dynamic, mixed-use neighborhood on the site of the former Hunter's Point Shipyard, the Monday program will feature an interactive roundtable discussion on the impact of urban sprawl, neighborhood design and land use on public health.

In this session, presenters will highlight the relationship between community design and physical activity, review the impact of community design on air pollution, explore the connection between social equity and community design decisions, and discuss issues faced by developers who are trying to build healthy communities.

Also scheduled for November 17 will be a special session on the impact of the indoor environment on human health. In this session, participants will discuss specific health hazards which relate to housing and the indoor environment, such as exposure to lead, allergens that cause or exacerbate asthma, molds and fungi, rodent and insect pests, pesticide residues, and indoor air pollution.

The program will conclude November 18 with three afternoon sessions that articulate the vision of "healthy people in healthy communities" outlined in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Healthy People 2010 document. In the first session, presenters will provide a framework for the creation of a solid scientific base from which to determine environmental and human health impacts from chronic exposure to the built environment.

The second session will focus on the potential for building models that would allow an assessment of the health impacts of community design choices. Participants will also discuss possibilities for developing guidelines that address healthy choices in community design, along with key issues involved in comparing designs from different communities. The final session will address policy and economic issues associated with creating sustainable communities.

In a landmark study published earlier this year, University of Maryland researchers used data provided by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention to look at health characteristics of more than 200,000 individuals living in 448 U.S. counties in major metropolitan areas. Using U.S. Census and other federal data, the researchers assessed the degree of sprawl development - spread-out communities in which the homes are relatively far from shops, restaurants and other destinations - within each county.

The study found that as the degree of sprawl increased, so too did the chances that residents living in these areas would be obese or have high blood pressure. In fact, people living in the most sprawling communities were likely to weigh an average of six pounds more than residents living in the most compact communities, perhaps because the people in sprawling environments have fewer chances to stay fit through routine physical activity.

"The built environment plays a significant role in chronic illnesses such as obesity, asthma and cardiovascular disease," said co-moderator Allen Dearry, Ph.D., director of NIEHS' Division of Research Coordination, Planning and Translation. "Communities, biomedical scientists, planners and policy makers need to work together to identify the mechanisms by which the built environment impacts human health, and to develop appropriate interventions to reduce or eliminate its harmful effects."
NIEHS is also sponsoring a related conference that will be held May 24 - 26, 2004, in the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C. Titled "Obesity and the Built Environment: Improving Public Health Through Community Design," the conference will focus on the complex relationship between obesity and the built environment at several different levels - urban and suburban settings, rural communities, school environments, and work sites.

JOHN PETERSON 919-541-7860
ALLEN DEARRY 919-541-3068

NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Related Public Health Articles from Brightsurf:

COVID-19 and the decolonization of Indigenous public health
Indigenous self-determination, leadership and knowledge have helped protect Indigenous communities in Canada during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, and these principles should be incorporated into public health in future, argue the authors of a commentary in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal)

Public health consequences of policing homelessness
In a new study examining homelessness, researchers find that policy such a lifestyle has massive public health implications, making sleeping on the street even MORE unhealthy.

Electronic health information exchange improves public health disease reporting
Disease tracking is an important area of focus for health departments in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pandemic likely to cause long-term health problems, Yale School of Public Health finds
The coronavirus pandemic's life-altering effects are likely to result in lasting physical and mental health consequences for many people--particularly those from vulnerable populations--a new study led by the Yale School of Public Health finds.

The Lancet Public Health: US modelling study estimates impact of school closures for COVID-19 on US health-care workforce and associated mortality
US policymakers considering physical distancing measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 face a difficult trade-off between closing schools to reduce transmission and new cases, and potential health-care worker absenteeism due to additional childcare needs that could ultimately increase mortality from COVID-19, according to new modelling research published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Access to identification documents reflecting gender identity may improve trans mental health
Results from a survey of over 20,000 American trans adults suggest that having access to identification documents which reflect their identified gender helps to improve their mental health and may reduce suicidal thoughts, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Study estimates mental health impact of welfare reform, Universal Credit, in Great Britain
The 2013 Universal Credit welfare reform appears to have led to an increase in the prevalence of psychological distress among unemployed recipients, according to a nationally representative study following more than 52,000 working-age individuals from England, Wales, and Scotland over nine years between 2009-2018, published as part of an issue of The Lancet Public Health journal on income and health.

BU researchers: Pornography is not a 'public health crisis'
Researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) have written an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health special February issue arguing against the claim that pornography is a public health crisis, and explaining why such a claim actually endangers the health of the public.

The Lancet Public Health: Ageism linked to poorer health in older people in England
Ageism may be linked with poorer health in older people in England, according to an observational study of over 7,500 people aged over 50 published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

Study: Public transportation use linked to better public health
Promoting robust public transportation systems may come with a bonus for public health -- lower obesity rates.

Read More: Public Health News and Public Health Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to