Southern California Environmental Report Card, Spring/Summer 2011: Health and the Built Environment
The Institute of the Environment and Sustainability has just released its Southern California Environmental Report Card, Spring/Summer 2011, Health and the Built Environment, authored by Richard J. Jackson, M.D., M.P.H., Professor and Chair, UCLA Department of Environmental Health Sciences.
Over the course of the 20th century, the lifespan of the average American increased by 30 years. Only five years of that increase, however, were attributable to advancements in medical care. The rest were due to public health efforts–mainly immunizations and improvements in the healthfulness of our environment. Yet, most people, including health professionals, do not really understand environmental health, or they have far too narrow a view of it. Some envision an inspector issuing A's, B's or C's to restaurants, checking microbe levels in water supplies, or analyzing pollutant concentrations after a hazardous chemical spill. These are important functions, but the environment is much greater than simply the hazards we test for—it is the entire medium in which we exist. And just as health is more than the absence of disease, environmental health is more than simply the absence of toxins.
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
The design and location of homes, schools, workplaces, stores, streets, and open spaces—our built environment—has a tremendous impact on physical, mental, and social health. The built environment is the product of our imagination and our work, and it is where we spend nearly all of our time, yet it is also the source of many chronic diseases and natural resource challenges we face. This article focuses on the environmental health of the people of Southern California, particularly as it relates to the built environment. The size, complexity, and diversity of the region make Southern California one of the most dynamic places in which to study the built environment and health. In recent years, the region has made many advances, but as is the case with most report cards for Southern California, we find numerous areas that still need improvement.
Published: Friday, June 17, 2011