Balancing Public Space with Public Health
For many Americans, the drive from work or school to home is all too familiar: it begins with a long, multi-lane road infamous for its strip malls, lack of sidewalks, and high pedestrian fatality rates. It progresses to a jumble of connecting interstate highways packed with rush-hour traffic. And it ends with clusters of new, low-density, single-family residential developments lacking public parks, playgrounds, libraries, nearby stores or cafes, sidewalks, bicycle trails, and public transit. In much of this country, adults and children travel by private automobile to virtually all of their destinations, because they have no practical transportation alternatives. In poor communities, adults often rely on inadequate public transportation to get to work. Their children end up walking through unsafe neighborhoods to get to school.
Public health has traditionally addressed the "built environment" to tackle specific health issues such as sanitation, lead paint, workplace safety, fire codes, and access for persons with disabilities. We now realize that how we design the built environment may hold tremendous potential for addressing many of the nation's greatest current public health concerns, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma, injury, depression, violence, and social inequities. Almost everything in our built environment is the way it is because someone designed it that way. We still have a remarkable capacity to plan ahead, shape the future, and adapt to new settings. This series will offer best practice examples that will inform the building of safer, more beautiful and healthier communities.
Balancing Public Space with Public Health, a new public television documentary series and public health outreach initiative, will explore how communities across the country are re-thinking and redesigning their built environments. More and more American communities are looking at the direct correlation of green public spaces and improved public health. The PBS series will be supported by a nationwide community-based outreach and publicity/promotion campaign, interactive web site, educational curricula for elementary school through college, a companion book, video resource library, and more.
Other resources for Balancing Public Space with Public Health:
Download the full project proposal (pdf, 1.1 MB)