Department of Urban & Regional Planning
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Center for Health and the Built Environment

Spring 2009 Update

The Center for Health and the Built Environment, directed by Dr. Ruth Steiner, is a research center focused on teaching, research, and service to address the relationship of the built environment to health outcomes with special attention to vulnerable populations. The Center is interdisciplinary in focus and involves all five design disciplines in the College of Design, Construction and Planning: urban planning, building construction, interior design, landscape architecture, and architecture. It focuses on issues and policies to promote more active living through the design of physical space and environments to promote healthy communities for all people, especially those disproportionately affected by the consequences of poverty and poor land use planning.

Recent and current work under the Center includes research in the areas of bicycle and pedestrian safety, children’s travel to school, and vehicle-miles of travel (VMT)-based methodologies for traffic impact assessment. The Center, in collaboration with the GeoPlan Center and the Maternal Child Health Education and Research and Data Center in the College of Medicine Department of Pediatrics, is currently working on a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to plan for a national Childhood Obesity Prevention Geographic Information System. The College of Engineering is also partnering with the Center in an effort to develop VMT-based methodologies for traffic impact assessment.

Future research under the Center will focus on integrating health into the planning process and addressing health disparities through a built environment lens. Over the next one to two years, the Center will explore future opportunities for collaboration, including departments and centers in the College of Design, Construction and Planning, Health and Human Performance, Public Health and Health Professions, and Agriculture and Life Sciences, and the Health Department of the State of Florida. These collaborations will focus on the location and elements of the built environment that can shed light on factors contributing to health disparities, such as obesity, diabetes and environmental pollution, across geographic areas. Air and water quality, environment and housing quality, and food access represent issues where greater integration with the planning process is needed. In collaboration with other organizations, the Center can provide leadership in teaching research and service on these topics.