New Jersey invented suburban sprawl, says Richard Jackson, a Jersey-born physician who studies the connection between our homes and our health. His conclusion: Sprawl is killing us. … Jackson, whose documentary “Designing Healthy Communities” is airing this month on PBS stations around the country, spoke with Star-Ledger editorial writer Jim Namiotka recently about the car-centered lifestyle we’ve made for ourselves — and how it might be shortening our lives
New Jersey Star-Ledger
Editorial Page, Feb. 20, 2012
You wouldn’t expect a doctor to write one of the most important books about planning towns and cities, but that is exactly what Richard Jackson has done. He makes it clear that sprawl isn’t just an aesthetic problem–it’s a public health issue. Planners have long known that towns and cities that are designed to encourage people to use their feet instead of their cars enhance our sense of community, and Jackson shows us that they also make people feel better, reduce obesity, and extend our life span.
Architecture critic for the New Yorker
University of Georgia Master Program in Geography
Structura Naturalis Inc.
You have a winner! It was very poignant and to the point! I thought it was terrific — very thorough…and thought provoking. I hope it becomes a vehicle for change — people can view these programs and say “We can do that!”
Bart B. Sokolow, D.Env., P.E., R.E.A.
EnvironmentalAdvisors, Inc., Encino, CA
“I caught the film earlier this week. Congratulations it is terrific! I will be requiring my students to watch now that I know it will be shown again. Keep up the good work. Lots of us are trailing behind! “
DEIRDRE HARDY, AIA
Professor + Director, School of Architecture
Florida Atlantic University
You are probably getting a million emails but I just wanted to congratulate you on a terrific first hour. I look forward to Thursday’s segment.
Lawrence Wallack, Dean
College of Urban & Public Affairs
Portland State University
“The Designing Healthy Communities PBS series and book directly addresses the ‘soft underbelly’ of our country’s future, if one excuses this intentionally harsh pun; how we are building our communities is a major contributor to the obesity, diabetic and asthma epidemics, which may be the foremost threat to future of our country, its economy and quality of life.”
Christopher B. Leinberger
President, LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors
After reading the book, Designing Health Communities, I ordered the accompanying DVD series. These programs are both moving and inspirational. My thirty year professional life has encompassed careers in urban planning, health care, and public health. The book tied all of these together in the most comprehensible way I have ever seen and the DVD series brought it to life: real people whose lives and health have been impacted by the urban environments that we have designed and communities that have succeeded in creating healthier living environments. I feel energized with a calling to help our community leaders see the connection between health and community design. The DVD series is a powerful educational tool in showing the urgent need and possibilities we have to build a healthier place to live.
Larry Lee, Administrator
St. Lucie County Health Department, Central Florida (Region 5)
Domestic Security Task Force Health Co-Chair
I watched the “Designing Healthier Communities” episodes 1 & 2 and am so thrilled that there is such an awesome resource out there for people like me to take advantage of! I’m from Denver, Colorado, and watching how communities have transformed based on the change in quality of light sparks something within me. As you may or may not know, Denver’s communities have gone through drastic changes – mostly positive – since the first airing of the first episode. Now, we have an abundance of community gardens (Sustainability Park just opened in the Spring of last year and is planning on expanding as we speak) and just about everyone has a bike in this city!
Sustainable community development excites me. As an E.D. of a community awareness and involvement organization in Denver and Baltimore, I’m constantly looking for ways to make underserved communities more sustainable through providing them with the resources, services and opportunities that promote a healthier, happier, sustainable way of living. Pay It Forward Project, currently fiscally supported by First Sunday Foundation (501c(3)) just launched the Baltimore Project, primarily focusing on the communities of West Baltimore to help create a “Green Zone” out of an area that has been devastated by its social injustices for years. The Designing Healthier Communities model would be a PERFECT suppliment to the projects being done in the inner city communities of Baltimore to aid them in becoming more sustainable.
My family and I just finished watching Episode 2, Rebuilding places of the heart on our local PBS station in Syracuse. They loved the program. It was well done and thought provoking. They enjoyed seeing everyone from the nation on the tv as well. Great job.
Eel Clan, Onondaga Nation Council member
For me, the videos by Dr. Jackson were the most profound. So many of the points that he brought up are relevant in my personal life and in my community life. Making a more walkable, more sustainable community is key to a healthier future. That is the legacy I want to leave for my children and in my community.
The idea of re-thinking the “American Dream” and moving from a house in the sprawling suburbs to a home in a community that is well planned, interconnected, and sustainable can help to change the trajectory we are on. I think Americans may be getting the message. I recently read that for the first time in years, the rate of obesity in 2-5 year olds is lower than the previous year. I hope this trend holds for years to come.
I loved the discussions in the Jackson videos of revitalization and the importance of building communities. I plan on using the information learned from those videos in some community advocacy I am doing now in my community. I hope to apply these ideas and advocate for change in [my town].
UC Berkeley Graduate Student