Anti-Sprawl Doctor to Host PBS Series on Urban Design and Public Health

“A leading voice for better urban design for the sake of good health.” “A public health/social justice hero.” Dr. Richard Jackson, chair of environmental health at UCLA, is a leading voice for transportation reform whose work has linked America’s sprawl to the nation’s high rates of obesity.

The former director of the Center for Disease Control’s Environment Health Department will take to the airwaves Tuesday in an interview with PBS’s Tavis Smiley. The interview will run in coordination with Dr. Jackson’s four-hour documentary series, Designing Healthy Communities (check local listings).

Dr. Jackson spent years researching public health epidemics and zeroed in on car dependence and sprawl as leading factors in America’s diabetes and obesity epidemics.

“We have built America in a way that is, I believe, is fundamentally unhealthy,” Dr. Jackson says. “It prevents us from walking. It inhibits us from socializing. It removes trees and the things that make our air quality better. We could not have designed an environment that is more difficult for people’s well being at this point.”

He adds: “Two percent of the United States’ gross domestic product goes to the treatment of diabetes. This is a crushing economic impact.”

The series looks at communities across the country, highlighting best practices while attempting to reveal the human suffering that results from poorly planned communities.

The full interview will be available 24 hours before screening at PBS.org.