Department of Public Health Sciences and School of Architecture Named to Research Consortium

The Department of Public Health Sciences at the Miller School of Medicine and the University of Miami School of Architecture have been named charter members of the American Institute of Architects Design & Health Research Consortium, which will help fund basic research on how design affects public health. The 11 universities selected for the consortium were chosen by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), AIA Foundation and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA).

The University of Miami team is led by Scott C. Brown, Ph.D., research assistant professor of public health sciences, and Joanna Lombard, M.Arch., professor of architecture, who applied as a partnership with Maria Nardi at Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces. Their research will center on Miami-Dade County’s “Neighborhood Park Project,” a three-year project to provide better environmental, population and individual health outcomes through increased physical activity and social interaction. The project will focus on the health impacts of park and street trees, through a pre- and post-intervention assessment and analysis. The method will provide a model for related design and health impact studies, while the results will provide designers with strategies that have been proven to enhance health outcomes, a concept foundational to the consortium.

There is a critical need for meaningful strategies that can enhance health outcomes. Two-thirds of Miami-Dade County’s 2.6 million residents are overweight or obese and nearly 30 percent of the county’s adults regularly report no physical activity in the past 30 days. Ten percent of high school students are obese and only 12 percent attend daily physical education classes, compared with 44 percent in the rest of Florida. This program seeks to use walkable, green, and accessible design of community-centered parks, within a 5-10 minute walk from home for those residents at greatest risk for physical inactivity, obesity, and social isolation, to turn around these public health statistics and move closer to community well-being.

The team’s work is expected to extend across interdisciplinary and institutional boundaries, and has received support from Cheryl H. Jacobs, Executive Vice President of the AIA Miami, and Lillian Rivera, Ph.D., RN, M.S.N., administrator of the Miami-Dade County Health Department.

“The research teams chosen for this consortium include some of the nation’s leading thinkers about the growing connection between design and public health,” said AIA CEO Robert Ivy, FAIA. “We chose them because their research has the best potential for affecting policy across a wide swath of issues at the intersection of the built environment and public health.”

Over a three-year period, the AIA and its partners will provide institutional support and capacity building for consortium members to promote collaboration through local and national partnerships; enable the sharing of knowledge through private listserv activity, conference calls, and face-to-face events; and provide a new portal on for members to share research activity. Whenever appropriate, the AIA and its partners will promote the activities of the consortium with potential funders.

Other consortium teams are from the University of Oregon; Drexel University; NewSchool of Architecture & Design; University of Florida; Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, School of Architecture; Center for Health Systems & Design, College of Architecture at Texas A&M University; the School of Architecture, Design and Planning at University of Kansas; Texas Tech University College of Architecture; and University of Arizona Institute on Place and Wellbeing.

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