Frederick Law Omlstead, the genius behind New York City's Central Park, was once the secretary general of the U.S Sanitary Commission. An article in the December 2010 issue of Dirt, the American Society of Landscape Architecture, makes the point that landscape architects should incorporate public health considerations into their practice.
"New links must be formed between design and public health, rooted in current health issues. While the public health community has had success in treating diseases, new health problems require the intervention of landscape architects: “Today millions of people on the planet, especially in the rapidly growing cities of the developing world, endure living conditions much worse than what Olmsted witnessed in Lower Manhattan, and almost a billion lack easy access to clean water. We confront as well — perhaps for the first time in history — the public health challenges of prosperity. We now identify diseases like cancer, heart failure, diabetes, emphysema and even obesity as “lifestyle diseases,” resulting from individual and social behaviors, from personal choices and cultural patterns; indeed the Centers for Disease Control have been studying “urban sprawl and public health” for several years now. We understand the problem: the increasingly sedentary, high-calorie lifestyle that’s become common in wealthier countries has made obesity an epidemic, with all of the attendant malignancies and infarctions that come with it. Here, the causes lie even closer, no farther than the car-dominated cities we build, and the corn-syrup-laced beverages and high-fat foods we produce and market so aggressively.”
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PUBLIC HEALTH NEEDS TO GET OUT OF ITS SILO & LEARN HOW TO WORK WITH BUILT ENVIRONMENT PROFESSIONALS
Thank you for reminding readers that the Industrial Revolution led to elevating the countryside as a healthful place. I would bet money that most public health department directors and funders that supported early work on environment-centered interventions to prevent obesity are unaware of the connection between landscape architectural practice and healthy spaces.
Most efforts to develop capacity to help public health departments respond to the chronic disease epidemic do not include engaging in the community input process that community development funds from the EPA, HUD, & DOT funded projects are required to use. Policy efforts are centered on schools and low hanging fruit such as farmers markets. It is unfortunate that the opportunity of having an impact on how billions of federal dollars targeting community redesign/development are not being tapped to meet public health objectives.
If anyone knows something to the contrary, it would be great is he/she would share it that information in this community and others.