States and municipalities across the tri-state region have rediscovered the many benefits of sustainable development in recent years, which include reduced auto dependency, cleaner air, economic growth, and more. Now, a 4-hour television series is taking an in-depth look at another reason to create sustainable communities in the United States: public health.
“We are in a pandemic of diseases: obesity, diabetes, asthma, heart, cancer, and depression. We must look upstream at how design in concrete…is affecting our public health,” said Dr. Richard Jackson, the program’s host and narrator, who is the chair of UCLA’s School of Environment and Public Health.
Designing Healthy Communities, a production of the Media Policy Center, outlines the many connections between community health and the built environment. One episode (“Retrofitting Suburbia”) examines the connection between type 2 diabetes and auto-centric sprawl, while another (“Social Policy in Concrete”) reports on an asthma-stricken family living near the Port of Oakland, which sees heavy truck traffic. With one of the nation’s highest asthma rates in the South Bronx, such issues resonate with tri-state area advocates.
However, the series does remind viewers that, much like recent progress to create more sustainable communities in our region, grassroots advocates from across the country are working to improve our nation’s transportation infrastructure. Still, there is work to be done. The series identifies several aspects of unhealthy communities that can be changed, including:
- Poor walking infrastructure;
- Infrastructure that does not foster a sense of place and community;
- Continued reliance on fossil fuels for transportation;
- Poor access to open space and trails;
- Growing environmental injustice for those that lack mobility options; and
- Increasing chronic disease, particularly among the young.
For more information on the series and the link between transportation infrastructure and public health, visit the Designing Healthy Communities website.