6/17/09

The Built Environment: Communities as Complex Systems

One of the fastest growing areas in the study of community health in complex systems terms is the built environment literature.

The built environment refers to the human-made surroundings that provide the setting for human activity, ranging from large-scale civic surroundings to smaller settings such as work and home.

The term is also now widely used to describe the interdisciplinary field of study which addresses the design, management and use of these human-made surroundings and their relationship to the human activities which take place within them. The field draws upon a wealth of disciplines and areas of study including geography, urban planning, epidemiology, computational and spatial economics, law, medicine, health care, medical sociology, management, architecture, and design and technology.

An excellent website that has devoted considerable attention to this topic is The Prevention Institute. Check it out for more information, in particular their PDF on eleven communities that have implemented programs to improve the built environment.

Other places to explore include:

1. The Center for the Built Environment at Berkeley.

2. The Built Environment Blog.

3. The Built Environment and Health at Columbia University.

10 comments:

  1. This is great!! I really did not realize how much actually goes into the built environment. There are many, many steps that are taken before creating these wonderful and beautiful man-made surroundings that we have. It is incredible and you really have shined some light on this subject for me. The other blogs were really great to read as well. You definitely learn something new everyday!

    Eleni T.

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  2. Wow! I have never realized how much effort is being placed in this built environment. It seems to me that not only does a built environment shape the way people function in society but also how we live. Everything that we do in our daily lives is some how connected to this man made environment, whether people realize this or not. Thanks a lot for the informing blog, i never really pictured our society the way this blog describes it.

    Jordan R.

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  3. This is interesting. I never really looked at the environment as something that was bulit. But thinking about it, the majority of it is. It might make me think twice next time im outside and looking around. It almost makes me feel like I have taken my surroundings forgranted because I have never really looked at it, and said, "Wow, someone spent a lot of time and effort into that one place or thing." Without the "built environment" life would be a lot different.

    Katrina C.

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  4. Altering elements of the built environment to improve health is a simple idea in which I suppose we have all at one time or another theorized about, but I honestly was not aware of the amount of information and research that was available. The web link for The PRevention Institute was quite interesting and after reading it I found myself viewing the term "built environment" from a whole new perspective.

    Cinda S.

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  5. I never took into consideration how much the built environment plays a role in the health of a community. One of the first things I thought about while reading the Prevention Institutes website was the effects on the community's health that Hurricane Katrina must have caused (and is still causing.) The pollution and trash that residents were exposed to must have had a tremendous effect on their health. I know that I have taken the buildings and structures in my community for granted, because it just seems natural that these things are there, and that they have to be there. I live in a very rural area, lots of woods and trees, but there are also a lot of built structures that I encouter daily without a second thought. Surrounding my apartment complex is a fence to stops the wild animals (deer, raccoons, Black Bears!) from entering the area which is definitely contributing to the saftey of the residents. This is an example of some of the little things people may not consider a big help to their saftey/health. I'm sure from now on I'm going to start noticing things that are around, and how it is helping the community.

    Brittany J.

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  6. This built environment is fantastic! I'm very impressed. There's been a lot of work put into this project. It's such a relief to see people really trying to make an effort to help out the less fortunate neighborhoods and communities and it's also very earth friendly.

    Christy W.

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  7. Hey Dr. Castellani,
    I was a bit familiar with the prevention institute. My husband and I are into community development. We like to approach it through relationship building. Getting to know the people...the needs....and then working with residents to make a positive difference.

    I firmly believe in the importance of environment on health. The most surprising thing I learned in Kenya, Africa this summer was how they have no quelms about throwing their trash on the ground. It is literally everywhere. I spotted my first trash can two weeks after I arrived in Kakamega, Kenya. I have an interesting pic of a big black pig rummaging through the city trash at the corner outside of the internet cafe in town. The trash pile would grow and then they would let the pig and three or so goats rummage through it....needless to say they still have alot to learn about built environments and about prevention!! Evey W

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  8. i never understood the concept of a built environment and exactly the great detail that has gone in to manifesting it. I agre with some of the bloggers that is indeed is a fantastic idea and that I take for granted things around me that I see each and everyday.
    kristen c.

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  9. I didn't know how much it takes to create an environment. Some things are pollution (water, sewage, trash) activities for the all ages (youth, adults, elderly, teens). Health clinics, screenings and fairs, what type of citizens are being attracted to this environment. is there opportunity for employment. I think these are all things to consider when in search for a community. Communities should have a lot to offer for all age groups and should practice the healthy people 2010 model.

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  10. I didn't know how much it takes to create an environment. Some things are pollution (water, sewage, trash) activities for the all ages (youth, adults, elderly, teens). Health clinics, screenings and fairs, what type of citizens are being attracted to this environment. is there opportunity for employment. I think these are all things to consider when in search for a community. Communities should have a lot to offer for all age groups and should practice the healthy people 2010 model.
    Narkita B.
    (I forgot my name on the first post)

    ReplyDelete