Far Out: How Space Impacts Our Health

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I am obsessed with space. Not the impossibly-large-to-comprehend thing that we are but specks in the universe of, but space at a much more manageable level – the spaces (and places) we interact both with and in every day. From the sidewalk to the park, and the grocery store to the metro – these are the spaces I am interested in. Why do these often seemingly mundane places interest me so much? Because the interactions we have within our places of work or the local mall help shape our physical, mental, and emotional health and wellness.

Sometimes these interactions help to positively shape our health: urban green spaces have been shown to help relax and restore the mind, encouraging learning, alertness, and inquisitiveness. In addition, studies show that the more walkable cities are, the more inhabitants will actually walk (helping to guard against obesity). But there is an ugly side to these interactions too: those who live, work, or go to school near freeways are at an increased rate of asthma onset and attacks, as well as cardiovascular disease and premature death. As city planning has evolved over time to incorporate more health and environmental best practices, I have to wonder: how can I or we manipulate the places we interact with in order to improve the health of Angelenos?

While I don’t think there is one answer to this impossibly complex question, I do think that schools are a great place to start. School-based Wellness Centers, such as those supported by The L.A. Trust, are a great place to deliver quick and accessible health care services. It’s such a simple concept – meet students literally where they are. While I start to wrap up my time with The L.A. Trust, I’ll be heading to graduate school to tackle the issues surrounding how we can change the spaces we interact within to improve the health of all – and expanding the reach of Wellness Centers will be at the forefront of my mind.

Sam Henstell will be attending the University Michigan this fall 2017 at the University of Michigan. To learn more about Sam, click here

[1]Wolf, K.L., and K. Flora 2010. Mental Health and Function – A Literature Review. In: Green Cities: Good Health. College of the Environment, Universi ty of Washington; 2016. www.greenhealth.washington.edu.
[1] Eldridge, B. Walkable Cities are Healthier, New Study Affirms. Curbed; November 2016. https://www.curbed.com/2016/11/7/13539982/walkable-cities-health-walkabilityhttps://www.curbed.com/2016/11/7/13539982/walkable-cities-health-walkability.
[1] How Mobile Source Air Pollution Affects Your Health. United States Environmental Protection Agency. https://www.epa.gov/mobile-source-pollution/how-mobile-source-pollution-affects-your-health.


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