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Designing Healthy Communities



Designing Healthy Communities

Richard J. Jackson, Stacy Sinclair (With)

ISBN: 978-1-118-03366-1 October 2011 Jossey-Bass 288 Pages

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Designing Healthy Communities, the companion book to the acclaimed public television documentary, highlights how we design the built environment and its potential for addressing and preventing many of the nation's devastating childhood and adult health concerns. Dr. Richard Jackson looks at the root causes of our malaise and highlights healthy community designs achieved by planners, designers, and community leaders working together. Ultimately, Dr. Jackson encourages all of us to make the kinds of positive changes highlighted in this book. 2012 Nautilus Silver Award Winning Title in category of “Social Change”  

"In this book Dr. Jackson inhabits the frontier between public health and urban planning, offering us hopeful examples of innovative transformation, and ends with a prescription for individual action. This book is a must read for anyone who cares about how we shape the communities and the world that shapes us." —Will Rogers, president and CEO, The Trust for Public Land

"While debates continue over how to design cities to promote public health, this book highlights the profound health challenges that face urban residents and the ways in which certain aspects of the built environment are implicated in their etiology. Jackson then offers up a set of compelling cases showing how local activists are working to fight obesity, limit pollution exposure, reduce auto-dependence, rebuild economies, and promote community and sustainability. Every city planner and urban designer should read these cases and use them to inform their everyday practice."
Jennifer Wolch, dean, College of Environmental Design, William W. Wurster Professor, City and Regional Planning, UC Berkeley

"Dr. Jackson has written a thoughtful text that illustrates how and why building healthy communities is the right prescription for America."
Georges C. Benjamin, MD, executive director, American Public Health Association

Publisher Companion Web site:

Additional media and content:

Foreword vii
Anthony Iton

Preface ix

The Author xvii

Prologue: Why I Care About the Built Environment xix


Chapter 1 What Does Love, or Caritas, Have to Do with the Built Environment? 3

We Love Our Families and Our Country, but Do We Really Love Ourselves? 4

For Love of Family 6

For Love of Community 7

For Love of Our Nation and the World 14

Chapter 2 What Is Health, and How Do We Measure It? 15

Personal Health 17

Public Health Policy 23

Environmental Health 28

Mental and Social Health 30

Chapter 3 Can the Built Environment Build Community? 35

Organic Places Are Healthy Places 36

Urban Centers 41

State and Nation 45


Chapter 4 From Monoculture to Human Culture: the Belmar district of Lakewood, Colorado 53

Symptoms 54

Diagnosis 60

Cure 62

Prevention 64

Chapter 5 Using New Urbanism Principles to Build Community: Prairie Crossing, Illinois 67

Symptoms 69

Diagnosis 70

Cure 73

Prevention 77

Chapter 6 Saving America’s Downtowns and Local History Through the Political Process: Charleston, South Carolina 79

Symptoms 80

Diagnosis 82

Cure 86

Prevention 88

Chapter 7 Reinventing a Healthy City Through Community Leadership for Sustainability: Elgin, Illinois 91

Symptoms 92

Diagnosis 94

Cure 98

Prevention 104

Chapter 8 Ending Car Captivity: Boulder, Colorado 107

Symptoms 108

Diagnosis 110

Cure 115

Prevention 117

Chapter 9 Ports as Partners in Health: Oakland, California 119

Symptoms 120

Diagnosis 123

Cure 132

Prevention 135

Chapter 10 The City That Won’t Give Up: Detroit, Michigan 139

Symptoms 140

Diagnosis 144

Cure (or at Least Treatment) 146

Prevention 155


Chapter 11 What’s Happening in Your Community? 159

Determining the Health of Your Community 159

Conducting an Audit of Your Built Environment 166

Chapter 12 Who Are the Players? 175

Finding Your Stakeholders 178

Social Networking 187

Getting Everyone to Pull Together 188

Chapter 13 Create an Action Plan 189

Analyze the Symptoms 189

Determine the Diagnosis 194

Implement the Cure 195

Protect Through Prevention 206

Epilogue: Now It’s Your Turn 207

Notes 213

Index 219

“Though intended as a companion to a four-part TV series he is hosting on PBS stations, the book stands on its own very well. Though professionals of many stripes can learn from Designing Healthy Communities, its greatest strength is likely to lie in energizing and educating a broad public — readers described by Dr. Jackson as “those of us who are concerned about our communities and the world we are giving to our children.” – Better Cities/Towns, February 2012.

“It’s called the ‘built environment’ and if you’re a public health whiz, you know exactly what that means. If you don’t, Dr. Richard Jackson, Chair of UCLA’s Environmental Health Sciences Department believes it’s critical you do.” – The California Report health blog, KQED (San Francisco)

“An admirer of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Dr. Jackson argues that such details of daily life make existence worthwhile. And that is what “Designing Healthy Communities” is all about.” – Reporting on Health (USC Annenberg)

“The new book, “Designing Healthy Communities,” says: ‘When there is nearly nothing within walking distance to interest a young person and it is near-lethal to bicycle, he or she must relinquish autonomy — a capacity every creature must develop just as much as strength and endurance.’” – New York Times, January, 31, 2012