The built environment shapes virtually all aspects of health and wellbeing through its impact on our everyday lives and the choices we can make. Positive environments, which offer safe opportunitesfor physical activity, social interaction, stress relief and recreation alongside easy access to jobs,schools and essential services contribute greatly to all aspects of our health and wellbeing.Many immigrants originate from regions of the world where lifestyle-associated behaviourscontributing to chronic diseases, particularly those associated with obesity, inactivity and diet, areless prevalent than those observed in the developed world.
Fig. 1 The determinantsof health
This studio makes a connection between two research topics;
environmentaldeterminants of health
(Fig. 1) and the phenomenon referred to as the
. The studio will use urban design strategies to analyze urban immigrant
communities and develop new ways of adapting these communities to reect the cultural
preferences and practices of various immigrant groups. The goal of this research effortis to identify ways that communities can be designed to promote healthy, active lifestylesand improve public health outcomes.Walkability, proximity to parks and green spaces, access to public transportation andperception of safety are all characteristics of the built environment that have been linked to increased physical activity and health (McCann, Ewing, 2003)(Loukaitou-Sideris,2006). The Healthy Immigrant Effect is a generally accepted phenomenon where recentimmigrants are found to be healthier than native-born counterparts, but over time, thishealth advantage dissipates (Oxman-Martinez et al., 2000)(Gushulak, 2007).For example, immigrant women are about 10 percentage points lesslikely to be overweight than natives at entry, and they close 90%of the gap within 10 years of U.S. residence (Antecol, 2006).Although a growing body of research is building the linkbetween health outcomes and the built environment,generalized urban design strategies for improving
resident health may not recognize culturally specic
needs and desires of immigrant communities. In thisresearch studio, students will be involved in the process
of creating new knowledge, which will follow a dened
research methodology, and work towards the goal of better understanding to what extent the needs of thefocus communities are unmet. Design proposals will then
be developed to address these environmental deciencies,
ultimately fostering healthy, active lifestyles.
Dr. Eddie Rooney, Chief Executive, Public Health Agency
Northern IrelandDr. Brian Gushulak, Migration Health Consultants Inc.