Health by Design

Making Health Workshop

Making Health Workshop (Photo credit: BMW Guggenheim Lab)

The spaces in which we inhabit can have a long term impact on how we develop, the choices we make, the way that we socialize, and how healthy we are. The built environment can promote active living, or not. It can create good air quality, or not.  It can open the opportunity for people to make healthy food choices, or not. Planning and design provide a meaningful and rich opportunity to create healthy communities, or not.

Integrated planning is an approach to our built environment that interweaves public health considerations (physical activity, the natural environment, public safety, healthy eating, mental health, social capital, pollutants and epidemiological issues) with the traditional notions of planning (land use, transportation, community facilities, housing, education, and parks and open space). Across the country, planners, public health officials, policy makers, and community leaders are using design for wellness.

In 2006, Terry Huang, a researcher at the National Institutes of Health, proposed a completely new approach to combating childhood obesity: Architecture. VMDO Architects, in collaboration with the University of Virginia and University of Nebraska, redesigned a 1950s-era elementary school in rural Virginia to promote healthy behaviors and a culture of physical activity among students to combat childhood obesity.

VMDO is currently collaborating with various public health scientists and educators to equip architects, planners, educators, and public health practitioners with new insights and strategies for schools to:

  • make school environments more conducive to healthy eating and movement;
  • adapt healthy programming and practices and;
  • support the physical and emotional well-being of healthy “food smart” children

Integrated planning and design have the potential for addressing and preventing many of our nation’s devastating health concerns. How is your community using planning and design to foster health and wellness?

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Shannon is an advocate for social change. Her passion for systemic, holistic approaches to the health of individuals and communities has taken her to cities across the US and to Guyana. Read more.

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