Wellness Guru Getting A/E/C Attention

Posted on August 12, 2013

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Dr. Richard Jackson, a UCLA School of Public Health Chair, author, professor, physician and all-around policy expert and health advocate, is about to trend.

He caught my attention when he co-authored a book called “Urban Sprawl and Public Health”, which I read and attempted to push on my architect friends like a pied piper.  Reading about policy and health statistics ranks close to elective dental work in most people’s list of Least Likely Ways to Spend Free Time.

His message happened to complete a triad of related ideas that had been gaining momentum:  the benefits and adoption of New Urbanism (see Andres Duany), the growing dissatisfaction with our built environments (see James Howard Kunstler), the focus on nutrition and general poor health from engineered food like GMOs and fast food (see Eric Schlosser, Marion Nestle, Michael Pollan).  Dr. Jackson happened to supply the necessary ammunition of clinical repercussions and data behind our poor, post-WWII community planning.  We are killing ourselves through our city and suburban planning.

In his monthly address in Architect magazine’s February issue earlier this year, Mickey Jacob, FAIA, referenced Dr. Jackson and the need to create “spaces that work for our health, the economy, and the planet—places that are of the heart.”  Jacob urged AIA members to help prevent poor health, poverty and disease through well-designed and more sustainable places to live, work and play.  Jacob referenced Dr. Jackson’s “Designing Healthy Communities” series on PBS.  These were all consistent messages from Jacob, who also addressed AIA Jacksonville in February.

Little did Jacob know that AIA Jax was already planning to bring Dr. Richard Jackson to Jacksonville to address our design, health, education, government policy and non-profit communities this November.  As Programs Chair this year, I can say the response is strong:  Dr. Jackson’s message is solid and people want to hear it.

So when I heard Dr. Jackson quoted again at the ASHE Annual Conference earlier this month, I was not surprised.  Finally, the message is getting out.  As architects address their collective futures amid a sea change in healthcare, session presenters urged healthcare architects, engineers and builders present, with a Dr. Jackson quote:  “Most architects probably do not think of themselves as health professionals—but they should, because they are.”  Indeed.

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Posted in: Design Zeitgeist