189961 Impact of the built environment on the health of older adults

Tuesday, October 28, 2008: 2:50 PM

Andrew Dannenberg, MD, MPH , National Center for Environmental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA
The built environment has substantial impacts on the health of the residents of a community. Distance, safety, and connectedness influence whether residents drive to most daily destinations or can walk, bicycle, or use transit to those destinations. In areas that are not walkable, heavy dependence on automobiles contributes to air pollution and associated cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, motor-vehicle related injuries, and climate change. Community design following Smart Growth principles can enhance social capital and mental health as well as promote environmental justice. For older adults, especially those with mobility, vision, or hearing impairments, the design of the local built environment has major impacts on the quality of their daily lives. Examples of designs that accommodate the needs of older adults include well-maintained connected sidewalks, wheelchair ramps, clear signage, audible crossing signals, and user-friendly transit systems. Zoning rules that encourage affordable housing and accessory dwelling units can promote aging-in-place which has important social and mental health benefits for older persons and their families. Many design features that make a built environment more convenient and safe for use by older adults also help children and persons with disabilities of all ages. Health impact assessment (HIA) is a tool that can used to convey health consequences of proposed projects and policies to decision-makers to help mitigate adverse and promote favorable design features. Most HIAs focus on the needs of vulnerable populations including those of older adults.

Learning Objectives:
Participants will be able to describe settings for which conducting a health impact assessment would be useful. Participants will be able to list the steps in conducting a health impact assessment.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: 7 years experience in research and teaching on health and built environment issues
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.