Dr. Richard Jackson explains the link between our health and the way our communities — especially our suburbs — are designed. Obesity, asthma, diabetes and heart disease are all aggravated by the auto-centric way we live our lives today. It’s no secret that today’s generation of children are likely to have shorter lives than their parents because of their unhealthy lifestyles. It doesn’t have to be this way. Well-designed communities can improve both physical and mental health, as Dr. Jackson explains in this four-part public television series and the accompanying book. Searching for Shangri-La is part four of the series.
Public health has traditionally associated the “built environment” with issues such as poor sanitation, lead paint poisoning children, workplace safety, fire codes and access for persons with disabilities. If we are what we eat, it can also be said that we are what we build. We now realize that how we design the built environment may hold tremendous potential for addressing many of the nation’s – childhood and adult — current public health concerns. These include obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma, depression, violence and social inequities.
Almost everything in our built environment is the way it is because someone designed it that way. The project’s goal is to offer best practice models to improve our nation’s public health by re-designing and restoring our built environment. Our country faces grave challenges in environment, economy and health. The banquet is over. “Easy oil” has disappeared, so too other resources are being depleted. And global heating increasingly will threaten human and species survival worldwide. Economies built on ever increasing consumption have contracted and secure incomes are unlikely to be available to working people for a long time, if ever. And our medical care costs will continue to escalate for reasons of technology and population aging, but particularly as the tripling of obesity and doubling of diabetes rates show their health and cost effects.
In Designing Healthy Communities PBS Series: Searching for Shangri-La, Dr. Jackson searches past and present America for healthy, sustainable communities of all sizes and shapes that can serve as models for the rest of the nation. His journey takes him to Roseto, PA, Prairie Crossing, IL, New York City, Charleston, SC, and the forgotten 1960s urban renewal project of Lafayette Park in Detroit, MI, the brainchild of 4 men, including visionary architect, Mies van der Rohe.
Also included are walkability expert, Dan Burden, and the 1960s, humorous but insightful, candid camera-‐style studies of people in public spaces by William Holly White.