Healthy People and the Design Sciences

In a supplement to the November issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (AJPM), this article examines the importance of design in our communities, our cultures, and our cities for the health and well-being of our nation moving into the future.

Physical activity is quickly disappearing in our daily lives due to the loss of sidewalks in our towns, elevator access, and the ever-present automobile. Healthy People 2020 aims to modify these behaviors largely by targeting the design of our “built environments.” Utilizing the help of city planners, architects, transportation authorities, and zoning commissioners for example, Healthy People 2020 has overarching goals related to cancer, immunizations, nutrition, physical activity and preparedness, plus many more.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) started a program 10 years ago called Active Living by Design (ALbD). The progress reports issued in the November issue of AJPM reviews the 25 community demonstration projects. In towns such as Somerville, Mass. changes to the built environment are in place for the ultimate goal: increasing the community-wide level of physical activity.

As the ALbD program set forth a decade ago—healthy people will not happen overnight. The better health of our nation should start making strides from the ground up.