it will also be important to measure the degree to which all segments of the population are benefiting from environmental improvements in the region. Examples included access to green space, healthy food options, and multiple modes of transit.
Christopher Portier, Director of the National Center for Environmental Health, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suggested that health indicators, such as gains in life expectancy from pollution reductions, offered a positive way to communicate the impact of sustainability efforts. In the same way that efficiency improvements are communicated in terms of consumer savings over time, improvements in the built environment that also improve health outcomes can be monetized (e.g., reduced medical expenditures) and provide a direct connection to citizens. Dr. Portier concluded that the way we design our communities and use our land will either promote or harm human health. Therefore, the CDC is becoming more involved in building capacity to support Health Impact Assessments for land-use and transportation projects.
Jeremy Hess, assistant professor, Department of Environmental Health, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, posed a question to the group about which health indicators could be used as a measure of urban sustainability. As many participants noted, health problems such as asthma and obesity are significant concerns in metropolitan Atlanta, and so linking these concerns to their environmental stressors could help make sustainability a more tangible idea for residents in the region. Dr. Hess added survival from common cancers to this list. These indicators are highly correlated with poverty and restricted access to health care. Incidence of obesity and diabetes are linked to limited mobility, limited access to nutritious food, and poor education. Dr. Hess reiterated that shifting our attention and investment to creating livable and sustainable communities can have a positive impact on public health.