Building healthy communities: Establishing health and wellness metrics for use within the real estate industry

November 2014, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

It is increasingly well recognized that the design and operation of the communities in which people live, work, learn, and play significantly influence their health.

However, within the real estate industry, the health impacts of transportation, community development, and other construction projects, both positive and negative, continue to operate largely as economic externalities: unmeasured, unregulated, and for the most part unconsidered. This lack of transparency limits communities’ ability to efficiently advocate for real estate investment that best promotes their health and well-being. It also limits market incentives for innovation within the real estate industry by making it more difficult for developers that successfully target health behaviors and outcomes in their projects to differentiate themselves competitively. Continue reading

Expanded Built Environment and Public Health Clearinghouse a go-to resource for design and public health training, news

The American Public Health Association, American Planning Association, National Network of Public Health Institutes, and Georgia Institute of Technology recently launched a greatly expanded Built Environment and Public Health Clearinghouse (BEPHC) as a resource for community design and public health training and community building. It is intended to be an evolving resource for training at the university and professional levels and a source for relevant news at the critical intersection of health and place.

The newly launched BEPHC website offers both academic and professional training resources that address the link between public health and planning, architecture, health impact assessment, transportation engineering, and other fields. The academic training pages provide information on courses taught at the university level that link public health to the built environment, while the professional training pages resources include multi-sector tools, training, case studies, and best practices to create, promote, and maintain healthy places. Continue reading

New infographic explores how changing communities gets people moving

Communities across the nation are doing more to ensure that streets, sidewalks, schools, and parks support walking, biking, and playing. A new infographic from Active Living Research (ALR) highlights several studies that evaluated changes in physical activity after the implementation of built environment and programmatic modifications in different cities. For example, children are more likely to walk or bike to school when there are quality streets and crosswalks, and programs that promote safety; existence of bike lanes is related to higher rates of cycling; and the presence of recreational facilities close to home encourages more physical activity. Continue reading

Fighting childhood obesity one school cafeteria at a time

May 10, 2013, ABC News

By Lisa Stark

In the fight against childhood obesity, the weapons have been many. Schools have tried exercise and education, and the government has mandated healthier school lunches. Now a school district in Virginia is believed to be the first in the country to try something radical —redesigning the school building, itself.

“It’s not completely out of thin air,” said public health expert Terry Huang, who helped spearhead the project, [and is a member of an expert scientific panel for the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR)]. “It is rooted in a long history of reinventing school designs to promote learning and mental well-being. We simply took that one step further.”

The result is a new elementary school for 970 kindergarteners through fifth-graders that opened this school year in rural Buckingham County, Va. From the ground up, the school is designed to promote activity and healthy eating. Continue reading

Outdoor food ads may persuade you to pile on the pounds

Jan. 29, 2013, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

“Living in a neighborhood that’s home to lots of outdoor food advertising may increase your chances of becoming overweight or obese,” said Lenard Lesser, MD, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Clinical Scholar (2009-2011). His new study is the latest work to reveal yet another link between the built environment and health.

“Determining why people eat certain foods and how they are influenced is a very complex process,” Lesser said. To test his hypothesis about the relationship between weight and outdoor advertising, Lesser and his team analyzed a telephone survey of adults, ages 18 to 98, from parts of California (Los Angeles near Drew University) and Louisiana (New Orleans near Tulane University). Continue reading

BEAT Institute offers free online course

As the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and other official groups have recognized environmental and policy changes as promising strategies for controlling obesity and improving diet and physical activity, various measures have been identified for use by researchers and practitioners to plan and evaluate changes to the built environment. The Built Environment Assessment Training (BEAT) Institute trains participants to use these measures. Continue reading

Former BEAT Institute participant helping to improve health of her community

The 2012 Built Environment Assessment Training (BEAT) Institute is happening now in Boston, Mass.

The goals of the Institute are to: prepare investigators and practitioners to use both observational and self-report measures of nutrition and activity environments and related behavioral assessments through lectures, fieldwork, hands-on skills, group work and individual consultation; and increase the number of professionals qualified to conduct built environment assessments for nutrition and physical activity.

We sat down with a BEAT Institute graduate to learn more about the “built environment” education she received. Continue reading

NCCOR member teaches training course at BEAT Institute

There is growing evidence that the “built environment” or physical characteristics of a community can have a major impact on obesity, physical activity, and overall health. NCCOR External Scientific Panel (NESP) member Jim Sallis will discuss the role environment plays in influencing physical activity at next week’s Built Environment Assessment Training (BEAT) Institute. Continue reading

BEAT Institute trains investigators, practitioners in measuring aspects of built environment

Numerous research examines the “built environment,” defined as the man-made entities that form the physical characteristics of a community.

This includes buildings, roads, utilities, homes, food stores, restaurants, fixtures, parks, and more. It also includes what’s captured by the broader concept of “environment” – streetscapes and transportation environments, nutrition and physical activity environments, and everything in between. Continue reading

New research suggests that neighborhood environment impacts child and parent obesity rates

Two new companion studies from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine suggest that living in a healthy environment can have a positive impact on you and your child’s waistline. The first of these studies describes the development of innovative GIS-based constructs for physical activity and nutrition environments. A follow-up study validates these measures by finding that adults and children who live in neighborhoods favorable to healthy eating and active living are less likely to be obese than those who live in less healthy neighborhood environments. Continue reading