A doctor's passion for healthy communities
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Review of Designing Healthy Communities, by Richard J. Jackson with Stacy Sinclair, Jossey-Bass, 2011, 261 pp., $50 hardcover.
When Richard Jackson spoke during the CNU congress in Atlanta in 2010, his passion and eloquence registered on me and everyone else in the audience. A leading figure among public health professionals fighting for better community design, Dr. Jackson believes America must pay far greater attention to the effect that streets, sidewalks, buildings, parks — all the elements of the built environment — have on people’s physical and mental well-being.
Only upon reading his latest book did I discover that Dr. Jackson, who chairs Environmental Health Sciences at ULCA, was propelled toward a career in health and medicine by experiences that began early in life. He was just three years old, in Portland. Maine, when his father suddenly died of polio. A few years later, growing up in New Jersey after his mother remarried, he found there often seemed to be not enough food for a household of nine. In a family with five boys, “we would go and get USDA surplus milk powder, macaroni, and other foods,” he recalls.
At 18, he entered a seminary where “for two years I prayed five hours