The American Institute of Architects (AIA) today issued a report: Local Leaders: Healthier Communities Through Design that provides a roadmap for towns and cities looking to help their populations stay healthy by employing design techniques that encourage residents to increase their physical activity. — aia.org
The report, which was released today at Governing Magazine’s “Summit on Healthy Living,” demonstrates how active lifestyles aided by positive design choices lead to a healthier population. Individuals who live in livable, mixed use communities, with options for transit - weigh less, are more physically active, and experience less chronic disease.
“Architects play a key role in designing healthy environments,” said AIA CEO Robert Ivy, FAIA. “This report shows the benefits our profession can bring to establishing a built environment that encourages exercise and discourages a sedentary lifestyle.”
Key barometers of health suggest America is heading in the wrong direction, namely toward physical inactivity, obesity, and chronic disease. Studies, highlighted in the report, demonstrate that the median improvement in some aspect of physical activity for livable urban communities can be over 160 percent. Studies also show that a community designed for exercise can prevent 90 percent of type two diabetes – as well as 50 percent of heart disease, site-specific cancers, and strokes. Better buildings and neighborhoods offer a comprehensive, cost-effective solution – as well as stimulate economic growth.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chronic disease is now the leading cause of death and disability as a result of inadequate nutrition, lack of physical activity, and environmental pollution. The CDC estimates that three quarters of U.S. spending on health care currently goes toward treating chronic diseases. Chronic diseases are now also the leading cause of death and disability in the U.S., with 70 percent of all deaths attributed to chronic disease. Design interventions that create healthier communities can make an enormous difference in outcomes, leading to great reductions in chronic disease.
The report documents the initiatives and policy choices of some of the biggest cities in the country that have designed communities with the health of their residents in mind:
The AIA is committed to improving public health through design. Currently, there are communities that are leading this effort, and they are highlighted in Healthier Communities Through Design. Good public policy is the solution and the mobilization of community members, architects, public health officials, and others across disciplines can help create healthy communities in cities across the country. Health by design can help reduce chronic disease and offer people choices for how they live, work, and play.
In addition, the AIA’s Commitment to Action, Decade of Design, announced at the Clinton Global Initiative conference in September, highlights the power of design to positively impact public health.