Designing Healthy Communities

Recently our community entertained the visit of, and was honored to welcome, Dr. Richard Jackson a nation-wide renowned educator, speaker, and author on the subject of designing and building healthy communities.  Dr. Jackson has done extensive work in the areas of designing healthy architectural buildings, safe and healthy communities, and working with our youth to better understand the environment, health risks and setting up communities that keep us in good health.  Dr. Jackson also served this country as the National Director of the CDC (Center for Disease Control).

While the state of Indiana was recently named “third best state in the country in best places to do business in”, sadly, it ranks 41st in the country in overall health and wellness.  Within the same survey Michigan ranked 36th, Ohio 40, and Illinois 32.  Clearly, Indiana and its neighbors are challenged to design cities, towns and communities that promote good health and wellness.  Dr. Jackson indicated that model cities with ideal designs and layouts of healthy cities, have solid urban city plans with walkable streets, bike lanes, sustainable buildings, local food source, and suitable spaces within cities that have parks and land for people to exercise. It is even more incumbent upon the private and public sector to work more closely together to help develop our communities in a healthier context.

On WNIT’s Economic Outlook, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg indicated it starts with the downtowns, and developing walkable communities that promote exercise and recreation. Mayor Pete has been an active advocate for smarter two way streets, more city parks, healthier food options offered through local food producers and cities that hold each other accountable with their diets and exercise regimen.  Mayor Pete stated the Saint Joseph River, and specifically river development could continue to play a major role in addressing much of what is discussed above.  Some of the major trends and a healthy community strategy must include the newly designed and soon to be worked on, two way streets, walkable communities, urban living environments that encourage walking, battery operated micro cars and healthy sustainable local growing food options.  Smart energy building designs are more prominent, specifically re-use of older buildings either vacant, run-down or simply in need of refurbishment with new, updated efficiencies is a growing trend that we are seeing especially in rust belt regions like ours. 

Older manufacturing cities transforming into newer revitalized healthier communities is not only very possible, but also very essential.  The focus should be on developing healthier communities, which leads to lower insurance rates, less lost time employment, happier living, and a city that leads to attracting younger individuals, retaining our current up and coming workforce.  A healthier region leads to a place people WANT to live, not just HAVE to live.