May 10, 2013
ATLANTA - As incidences of diabetes and asthma continue to increase at alarming rates in the American population, students at Georgia State University College of Law gathered to learn about obesity, asthma, and other conditions in the context of law, community planning, and public health with experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The discussion was organized around selected clips from "Designing Healthy Communities," a video series previously aired on PBS. The program was co-sponsored by the Center for Law, Health & Society and the Center for the Collaborative Study of Metropolitan Growth.
Professor Courtney Anderson moderated the panel consisting of Montrece Ransom, Senior Public Health Analyst with CDC's Public Health Law Program, and Ken Rose, Associate Director for Policy with CDC's National Center for Environmental Health. "We are fortunate that the law school is located in Atlanta, which not only has served as an incubator for innovative urban planning, but also is the home of the CDC," said Anderson. "Ms. Ransom and Mr. Rose were able to discuss the impact of the built environment on aspects of chronic disease and community design at the local and national levels."
The first video clip described how urban design serves as an underlying cause of chronic diseases such as obesity. The video also offered examples of methods urban designers are using to address the issue and improve health in Atlanta through projects like Atlantic Station and the BeltLine. "The Beltline project provides a salient example of the importance of taking a multi-disciplinary approach to designing and redesigning our communities," said Ransom. "It is critical that public health practitioners and lawyers, and others, join with planners on these issues and move past silos to use the built environment to create communities where healthy choices are the norm."
"I thought it was interesting to hear about the BeltLine; I did not know what it was before this presentation," said Matthew Goings (JD '15) after the first video clip. "I think it is very good that this is being implemented and would like to see options like this extended beyond the Perimeter."
The second clip focused on the compounding effects of adverse socioeconomic determinants of poverty that result in disproportionately high adverse health outcomes in impoverished communities, particularly those in urban city centers. "In many cities, redevelopment is occurring that is drawing higher income residents to built environments that make healthy choices easier choices. Unfortunately, this redevelopment can result in the displacement of lower income populations to less healthy environments with less access to essential services like public transit," said Rose. "Policy interventions like community benefit agreements, grandfathering property tax rates for elderly homeowners on fixed incomes, or workforce housing requirements can help to mitigate these impacts."
Following the PBS video clips, students had the opportunity to ask questions of the CDC panelists. "Improving health and quality of life for American citizens is an important topic that unfortunately doesn't get enough recognition," commented Becky Payne (JD '15) after the discussion session. "The CDC speakers were able to show how we can apply the law and effectively use our legal skillset to positively impact these urban improvement projects."
Stacie Kershner, JD
Center for Law, Health & Society