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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

Columbia Selected as Members of First Design and Health Research Consortium by AIA

The American Institute of Architects (AIA), the AIA Foundation, and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, named Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health and Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation as charter members of the AIA Design & Health Research Consortium, which will help fund basic research on how design affects public health.


The Mailman School of Public Health and Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation are one of 11 pairings of schools of public health and architecture schools selected as charter members of the consortium. The team, led by Dr. Andrew Rundle, associate professor of epidemiology, and Ms. Hilary Sample, associate professor of architecture, planning, and preservation will focus its research and translation activities on physical activity and identifying the ways in which architecture and urban design create built environments that support physically active lifestyles. While physical activity prevents cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and reduces blood pressure less than 50% of Americans meet current recommendations for activity.  The team will use GPS and GIS technologies to study how neighborhood built environments can support physical activity among residents of New York City and will develop methods to conduct similar research in Rio das Pedras, a favela community in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.   The choice of research sites is motivated by two key UN projections: (1) by 2025, 379 million people (10% of the world’s population) are expected to live in megacities such as New York City and (2) by 2030, 2 billion people will live in “informal communities” such as Rio das Pedras. The other members of the Columbia design team are Dr. Gina Lovasi, assistant professor of epidemiology, Dr. Kathryn Neckerman, senior research scientist at the Columbia Population Research Center and Dr. Karen Lee, a global health and built environment consultant based in New York City.

“The research teams chosen for this consortium include some of the nation’s leading thinkers about the growing connection between design and public health,” said AIA CEO Robert Ivy, FAIA. “We chose them because their research has the best potential for affecting policy across a wide swath of issues at the intersection of the built environment and public health.”

Over a three-year period, the AIA and its partners will provide institutional support and capacity building for consortium members to promote collaboration through local and national partnerships; enable the sharing of knowledge through private listserv activity, conference calls, and face-to-face events; and provide a new portal on for members to share research activity. Whenever appropriate, the AIA and its partners will promote the activities of the consortium with potential funders.

“We are tremendously excited to be included in the AIA Design and Health Research Consortium,” said Dr. Rundle. “Urban design and architecture create the contexts within which we live and can be used to make physical activity an easily accessible s part of everyone’s daily lives.”