Health indicators are pointing in the wrong direction. Healthcare costs are rising to unprecedented levels. To address these challenges, it’s become imperative that our municipal policies and initiatives be reconsidered. How can design help? As I see it, design provides a key preventative strategy. Designers can improve public health outcomes and enhance our everyday environments. The lens of design can help us focus and re-conceptualize the public health impacts of our cities and buildings. Healthy communities will help stem our raging epidemic of obesity and the chronic diseases that result from our sedentary lifestyles and bad diets.
But when you think of health, you may be thinking of the medical industry and the illnesses it treats. It’s time to turn this idea on its head. Let’s start focusing, instead, on preventative strategies that reduce the incidence of sickness in the first place.
A key policy, health by design, can be integrated directly into our cities, and architects can play a central role in designing healthier buildings and communities. Many of the problems we face today can be solved by simply looking at the amenities people already want from their cities: developments close to transit, shopping, restaurants, social services, and community services. These are essential parts of a comprehensive, systems-level solution. Active lifestyles rely, in large part, on expanding the options for when, where, and how people can live, work, and play.
Cities and towns looking to help their people stay healthy, now have access to a helpful document, produced by the American Institute of Architects. Local Leaders: Healthier Communities Through Design is a roadmap to design techniques that encourage residents to increase their physical activity. I see this new publication as a key resource for government officials, design professionals, and other stakeholders collaborating to address America’s public health challenges.
Jeremy Sigmon, LEED® AP BD+C
Director, Technical Policy
U.S. Green Building Council
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