The Center for Health and the Built Environment, directed by Dr. Ruth Steiner, is a research center focused on teaching, research, and service to address the relationship of the built environment to health outcomes with special attention to vulnerable populations. The Center is interdisciplinary in focus and involves all five design disciplines in the College of Design, Construction and Planning – urban planning, building construction, interior design, landscape architecture, and architecture – and the programs in sustainability and historic preservation and collaborations with other colleges. It focuses on issues and policies to promote healthy living through the design of physical space and environments to promote healthy communities for all people, especially those disproportionately affected by a lack of access to resources.
Recent and current work under the Center includes research in the areas of bicycle and pedestrian travel and safety, children’s travel to school, health impact assessment and healthy aging. The Center is currently a part of a American Institute of Architecture’s Health+Design Initiative at the University of Florida that focuses on design and aging and a major research study on access to primary health care through nurse practitioners. The Center has collaborated with the GeoPlan Center and the Maternal Child Health Education and Research and Data Center in the College of Medicine Department of Pediatrics to plan for a national Childhood Obesity Prevention Geographic Information System. The Center also partners with the College of Engineering on a variety of activities though the University of Florida Transportation Institute.
Future research under the Center will focus on integrating health into the planning process and addressing health disparities through a built environment lens. Over the next few years, the Center will explore future opportunities for collaboration, including departments and centers in the College of Design, Construction and Planning, Health and Human Performance, Public Health and Health Professions, and Agriculture and Life Sciences, and the Health Department of the State of Florida. These collaborations will focus on the location and elements of the built environment that can shed light on factors contributing to health disparities, such as obesity, diabetes and environmental pollution, across geographic areas. Air and water quality, environment and housing quality, and food access represent issues where greater integration with the planning process is needed. In collaboration with other organizations, the Center can provide leadership in teaching research and service on these topics.