What’s Next: Public Health

America is getting fat fast. Between 1980 and 2004, obesity doubled among adults. As a nation, we now spend as much as $147 billion annually on associated health-care costs. The epidemic has obvious implications for the built environment: manufacturers are now producing chairs that can support 750 pounds, while the public-health community has issued a cry for a corrective: walkable communities that promote physical activity as a daily routine, like taking the stairs between floors at the office or walking, instead of driving, to the grocery store. And shrinking the problem down to size could have a global impact. “Using less fuel and producing less food would result in a smaller carbon footprint,” says Debbie Breunig, the vice president of health care for KI. “A smaller waistline isn’t just better for our health; it’s also good for the planet.”

ONE year:

“The increase in obesity has certainly had an impact on the furniture industry. One of the many social impairments of obesity is the fear of finding a size-appropriate, safe place to sit. We learned that the larger ‘stretch limo’ versions of chairs are segregating to users, making them feel ostracized, especially when these chairs are placed in an out-of-the-way area in a public space. KI’s response: the Arissa collection of chairs, which can support people weighing up to 750 pounds but also comfortably seat short, light, tall, and average-size people. Its design recognizes both physiological and psychological issues to reduce the stigma associated with bariatric seating. Universal design will democratize seating.” —D.B.

FIVE years:

“We will see much more urban agriculture. It will shift from being a sort of novelty. The First Lady has an organic garden in the White House lawn, and I think it will be much more normative in America for a whole series of reasons, not the least of which is health.”

DR. RICHARD JACKSON, chair and professor of environmental-health sciences, UCLA School of Public Health

TEN years:

“We have essentially engineered exercise and, to a degree, socialization out of American lives. The country is so profoundly different from the way we built things in 1930. We have spent decades building health-eroding communities in America, and I think one of the big things we are going to see in the next ten years is a turnaround in that trajectory: we will build communities that are health promoting.” —R.J.

What’s Next: The 1-5-10 Issue
Public Health
Health Care
Urban Planning
Design Education
Green Building
Landscape Architecture

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