Proper design can improve health care for people that are already sick, but can it also be used to prevent illness? Robert Ivy, the Executive Vice President and CEO of the American Institute of Architects believes it can. He believes in it so strongly that he and the American Institute of Architects are in the middle of a ten-year commitment to improving public health through intentional design by preventing non-communicable illnesses like obesity and asthma.
In the year 2000, only 13 percent of children biked or walked to school compared to the 66% in 1974. This could explain why the childhood obesity rate is at the highest it’s been at 17%. The cause of obesity, in general, is simply a lack of exercise and unhealthy eating habits. With 35% of people in the US being obese and another 34% being just overweight, something needs to be done about Americans’ aversion to exercise. Public health officials and designers believe a solution could be creating more walkable cities. Manhattan’s High Lines took abandoned rail lines that went through the neighborhood of Chelsea and created an elevated park. This park includes trails that have a view of the Hudson River and the extensive botanical gardens found in the park. This creates a safe and enjoyable space for people to exercise and travel across the area.
The former head of the Center for Disease Control, Dr. Richard Jackson, believes the people who create and build the world have more influence on public health than doctors. The art of feng shui that has been practiced by the Chinese for thousands of years proves that the theory that design impacts health is not a new one. The problem is a lack of quantifiable data, which is why the initiative being led by the American Institute of Architects includes research grants on the impact of design on health.
Robert Ivy earned his B.A. of English cum laude from the University of the South and his Master’s in architecture from Tulane University in 1976. Before becoming the Chief Executive Officer of the American Institute of Architects in 2011, an organization with around 89,000 members, Robert Ivy worked for McGraw-Hill. At McGraw-Hill, Robert Ivy was the Editor in Chief of the Architectural Record, the leading architectural journal in the world. He was also the Vice President and Editorial Director of McGraw Hill Construction publications. Some of these publications include Constructor, Engineering News Record, as well as 16 websites. During his time with McGraw Hill, the Architectural Record earned dozens of recognitions and awards.
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