A new grant initiative launched by the University of Maryland School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (MAPP) and the School of Public Health (SPH) hopes to spark innovative research around the challenges of building healthy, equitable communities.
The Healthy Places Seed Grant Program will fund new research partnerships between faculty in architecture, urban planning, public health and other allied disciplines across UMD to explore the impacts of the built environment on health outcomes, opportunity and a community’s quality of life. The funding, says Dean of the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation Dawn Jourdan, strengthens a shared mission around creating healthy and just communities for all.
“The questions we seek to answer in achieving more resilient communities are actually the same,” she said. “This program is an investment not only in the growing partnership between MAPP and the School of Public Health, but in the big ideas that will make healthier, more remarkable places.”
The new program was announced last month at Societal Big Challenges: Equitable Communities, the second in a series of research and practice forums sponsored by MAPP that highlights groundbreaking research related to the built environment. This year’s forum featured TED-style talks by researchers from MAPP and the School of Public Health on topics including walkable streetscapes, gentrification and community clinics.
The announcement builds on emerging research collaborations between the two schools, including an ongoing water quality study in Baltimore between Associate Professor of Urban Studies and Planning Marccus Hendricks, Post-Doctoral Associate Priscila Alves and SPH Assistant Professor Rachel Rosenberg Goldstein. A new UMD-led initiative to address environmental racism and climate change in the Mid-Atlantic, which partners SPH Professor Sacoby Wilson and the Environmental Finance Center’s Jennifer Cotting, was recently funded with a $2.2 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
There is an undeniable relationship between the physical characteristics of neighborhoods and cities and health outcomes, says SPH Dean Boris Lushniak, from the quality of drinking water to a city block’s tree canopy. Programs that spur cross-collaboration around these issues are essential to ensuring health and wellbeing of communities.
“Let’s do something unique, at this place at this point in time, to change the world,” he said. “By uniting on this mission and encouraging fresh, innovative ideas, we will improve public health for generations to come.”