Another nice review for Built Environment and Public Health

Summer 2012   Issue 210 – 9 – Florida Journal of Environmental Health – www.feha.org
FEATURE ARTICLE
“The Built Environment
and Public Health “
by Russell P. Lopez
A book review by
Dorothea M. Volzer, MFA
Written in an easy-to-understand style,
The Built Environment and Public Health by
Russell P. Lopez contains a wealth of
information. The data supplied substantiate
the author’s concern that public health is
definitely affected by the environment that
we have built for ourselves.
Starting with community design, Mr.
Lopez shows the impact on our health. The
growth of suburbs has resulted in sprawl,
loss of farmland, more roads, and more
cars with longer commutes. These issues
in public health were not a concern until
the obesity epidemic. Promoting walking
and bicycling, reducing the need for a car,
and eating better foods can make a big
difference. Better health results from better
environment. Simple things like providing
access to goods and services, parks, and
recreation areas that can be walked to will
help with obesity and overall health. In
addition, car emissions also go down.
Obvious improvements in housing have
helped. Indoor plumbing, better appliances,
and improved building practices are all
helping to keep our environment healthier.
There is still much to be done with our air
quality, both indoor and outdoor. Major
improvements since the 1970s legislation
have significantly helped improve outdoor
air quality. Even so, ozone is still above the
EPA standards in many areas of the United
States. The Built Environment and Public Health
showed the many areas that still require
improvement. Particulates, such as road
dust and industrial emissions, harm lung
function. More homes and condos by
major highways are exposed to a lot of air
pollution. Second-hand smoke continues to
be a problem as well as the indoor air quality
within our schools. While we monitor
water quality, use graywater for irrigation,
and have started some desalinization, this
book points out many areas that need to be
addressed before our built environment will
really improve the public health.
Any program designed to address obesity
must include the food we eat. Mr. Lopez
does not disappoint in this area, and he
includes many relevant ideas. For the
majority of the United States, our food
travels thousands of miles from where it is
grown to our supermarkets. Along the way,
it can be contaminated in numerous ways as
we have experienced or heard about on the
news. Recalls are almost a daily event. The
increase in popularity and number of local
farmer’s markets will result in healthier
food and a healthier public.
Population health has been, and may
always be, related to affluence. Besides
income, race, age, and disabilities can
determine your vulnerability to poor health
in the built environment. Mental health is
also affected by noise levels, lack of parks
and green areas, and population density.
Road rage has increasingly become a
problem in the United States.
This book states that low income and
race increase the risk of poor health
because of their poor built environment.
The environmental justice movement
gives all people an equal right to a clean,
healthy environment. The mid-1980s
brought this idea to the forefront. By 1994,
the National Institute of Environmental
Health Services made the consideration of
environmental justice part of United States
federal decisions.
The last chapter deals with information
and tools available to make better health
through a better environment possible for
all of us. The guidelines contained in The
Built Environment and Public Health by Russell
P. Lopez make it a must-read for all who
work in public health.

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