LEED-ND Report on Public Health and the Built Environment
A new resource comprehensively summarizes the state of the practice on the relationship between public health and the built environment. The report was prepared for the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to assist with the preparation of a rating system for neighborhoods called LEED-ND (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development). Public health impacts is one of several factors that the LEED-ND Core Committee is taking into consideration in the development of LEED-ND, with reduction of environmental impacts being the primary focus of the rating system. The report was made possible with support from the U.S. EPA and the Centers for Disease Control.
In recent years, we have seen an alarming trend as increased obesity has become widespread among American citizens. The percentage of Americans who are overweight has risen from 47 percent in 1980 to 64 percent in 2000. The incidence of diabetes has also increased over time. In 2005, 20.8 million people, or 7 percent of the population, suffered from diabetes, with particular impacts on some certain demographic groups, such as people over 60 years old, blacks, and Hispanic/Latino Americans. More and more children are now considered overweight and the proportion of Americans who meet the minimum physical activity requirements guidelines has also decreased over time. Lack of physical activity and being overweight is are positively correlated with a plethora of health problems, including higher risks of cancer, heart disease, stroke high blood pressure, and arthritis.
The report focuses on five public health topics – respiratory and cardiovascular health, fatal and non-fatal injuries, physical activity, social capital and mental health. In addition, the report looks at the impact of each of these five areas on special populations, including children, the elderly, and minorities. Finally, the report pulls all of the research together and presents a comprehensive picture of the elements of the built environment that have the greatest positive impact on these public health outcomes. To our knowledge, this is the first report that not only summarizes the impact of the built environment on public health topics but also discusses how this information can be translated into positive changes to the built environment.