A Model Curriculum for a Course on the Built Environment and Public Health

Training for an Interdisciplinary Workforce


      Despite growing evidence of the direct and indirect effects of the built environment on public health, planners, who shape the built environment, and public health professionals, who protect the public's health, rarely interact. Most public health professionals have little experience with urban planners, zoning boards, city councils, and others who make decisions about the built environment. Likewise, few planners understand the health implications of design, land use, or transportation decisions. One strategy for bridging this divide is the development of interdisciplinary courses in planning and public health that address the health implications of the built environment. Professional networking and Internet-based searches in 2007 led to the identification of six primarily graduate-level courses in the U.S. that address the links between the built environment and public health. Common content areas in most of the identified courses included planning and public health histories, health disparities, interdisciplinary approaches, air and water quality, physical activity, social capital, and mental health.
      Instructors of these courses collaborated on course content, assignments, and evaluations to develop a model curriculum that follows an active learning-centered approach to course design. The proposed model curriculum is adaptable by both planning and public health departments to promote interdisciplinary learning. Results show that students gain planning and public health perspectives through this instruction, benefiting from active-learning opportunities. Faculty implementation of the proposed interdisciplinary model curriculum will help bridge the divide between the built environment and public health and enable both planners and public health professionals to value, create, and promote healthy environments.
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