“We built America for cars for 50 years. We need to go back and build America for human beings.”
It’s a well-worn but ultimately effective line, especially when delivered by Richard Jackson, chair of the Environmental and Health Sciences department at the University of California-Los Angeles and former head of the National Center for Environmental Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Jackson is also the author of “Designing Healthy Communities,” co-published by APHA, which examines the role of the built community in creating unhealthy lifestyles.
“We’ve essentially made America as unfriendly as we possibly can to pedestrians and walking,” Jackson said during a Monday book-signing session at the Public Health Expo. “It’s had a huge impact on physical well-being.”
Jackson is a pediatrician by training who worked on smallpox eradication and other topics before coming to the realization that “my joy was in the juncture between large policy and human health and well-being, particularly around children.”
He said he realized that the system whereby we “sit at the end of the disease pipeline” and try to rescue people is not working.
The book, which is aimed at the general public rather than a strictly academic audience, seeks to change urban planning to make communities more active and to build physical activity back into peoples’ lives.
“It’s really intended for the layperson who is not happy with where their community is headed,” he said.
Brian Sumner, a primary care internist from New York who bought Jackson’s book, said Jackson is “on the edge of cultural change with the things he talks about.”
Doctoral nursing student Karen Dawn, agreed.
“I love the idea of a community focus on improving health,” she said. “We need to look broader than what we’re doing now.”
Copies of Jackson’s book, some autographed by the author, are available for sale in the Everything APHA section at the Public Health Expo. Also for sale is a four-disc DVD set of a companion program that is set to air on public television in January.
Above, Richard Jackson signs copies of his book inside the Public Health Expo. Photo by Charlotte Tucker