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May 25, 2011
by Kate Rube Active Design Guidelines National Training Manager

Karen B. DeSalvo, MD, MPH, MSC, Commissioner of Health and Senior Health Policy Advisor, City of New Orleans.

Randi Rosenblum

Building on the success of Fit Nation DC in February, AIANY and the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) hosted Fit Nation New Orleans on 05.14.11, in partnership with the Tulane Prevention Research Center, AIA New Orleans, and AIA National. The event brought together architects, planners, public health professionals, and policymakers to discuss issues confronting our country due to increasing obesity rates, and the role that design can play in helping encourage both greater physical activity and access to healthier food options.

The event, timed with the convention, also attracted members from 14 communities that are working together with NYC on active design issues under a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant: Birmingham, AL; Boston, MA; Cherokee Nation, OK; Chicago and Cook County, IL; Louisville, KY; Miami, FL; Nashville, TN; Omaha, NE; Philadelphia, PA; Portland, OR; San Diego, CA; Seattle, WA; and Tucson, AZ.

Dr. Richard Jackson, MD, MPH, delivered a health keynote address at the event, noting that more than 15% of the entire U.S. GDP is spent on healthcare costs, in part due to dramatically escalating obesity levels and the diseases such trends cause. Our lack of physical activity, Jackson reinforced, is due in large part to design decisions that have programmed walking, stair climbing, and other activity out of our daily lives.

The conference also benefitted from international speakers, including Denmark-based Kai-Uwe Bergmann, AIA, RIBA, MAA, LEED AP, of the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). Some of BIG’s projects include the incorporation of public bicycle and walking paths that lead to the highest levels of high-rise apartment buildings, and apartment buildings designed on a diagonal that allow for small yards on every floor.

Fit Nation New Orleans complemented two other sessions that occurred within the convention, which featured Rick Bell, FAIA, AIANY Executive Director; Dr. Karen Lee, MD, MHSc, FRCPC, NYC DOHMH; Skye Duncan, NYC City Planning Department; and Robyne Kassen, AIA, and Sarah Gluck, co-founders of Urban Movement. These sessions also highlighted the availability of a new LEED Design for Health through Increased Physical Activity Innovation Credit, which has been approved by the U.S. Green Building Council on several projects, including the Riverside Health Center in northern Manhattan by 1100:Architect and Via Verde/The Green Way affordable housing development in the South Bronx by Dattner Architects and Grimshaw Architects.

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