U.Va. to Host Public Workshop Feb. 21-22 on Global, National and Local Issues of Health and Sustainability

February 08, 2008

February 8, 2008 — The University of Virginia will hold a workshop on Feb. 21 and 22 to explore linkages between sustainability and community health in Charlottesville. The workshop is unique in that it includes multiple schools and disciplines from across University Grounds.

According to Nisha Botchwey, an assistant professor of urban and environmental planning, "today’s problems are too complex to be addressed or solved by any one discipline, so we have created a forum that brings together public health, community planning, law, design and environmental science to take a holistic view of the world."

The U.Va. Sustainability and Health Symposium is open to the public, in the tradition of the Thomas Jefferson-era "community days," in which students invited the community in and shared their knowledge each year. The two-part symposium will engage participants through panel discussions and active-participant dialogue on sustainability and health issues from the global, national and local levels.

Workshop participants will examine emerging issues in sustainability and health and create an agenda for integrating research and action. Outcomes from the workshop will be utilized in developing U.Va. curricula, informing a new research agenda and identifying community development opportunities.
The workshop will kick off Feb. 21 at 6:15 p.m. with a screening of the movie "Sicko" at Newcomb Hall Theater, followed by a critique and discussion led by U.Va. executive vice president and provost Dr. Arthur Garson and planning professor Timothy Beatley. The discussion will consider the ways in which health care relates to sustainability.

On Feb. 22, the daylong workshop, to be held at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, includes panel discussions and guest speaker presentations to stimulate participant-led investigation of local, national and global roles, larger society concerns and policy responses. Dr. Bradley Perkins, chief strategy and innovation officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will give the keynote address.

According to the 2006 United Nations’ Human Development Report, 1.1 billion people in developing nations lack access to an adequate water supply, 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation, and 1.8 million children die each year from unclean water. Those children who do not die often end up with lifelong health impacts, including lowered I.Q. and stunted growth rates, according to research by Dr. Richard Guerrant, director of U.Va.'s Center for Global Health, who will address the symposium.

This is not just a problem for the developing world. In the United States, contaminated land and contact with unclean water can have devastating impacts for local communities. According to Karen Firehock, a U.Va. lecturer and director of the Charlottesville-based Green Infrastructure Center, which helps local governments, communities and regional planning organizations, as well as private-sector organizations such as land trusts, to include natural systems and ecological processes as the basis for planning, "We often think that clean water and health are just Third World problems, but we have pollution right here in our backyards. In Albemarle County, Preddy Creek, Meadow Creek, Beaver Creek, the Mechums River, and the north fork of the Rivanna River are listed as impaired rivers by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, and the entire Chesapeake Bay is also listed as impaired. The pollution in the bay threatens the safety of seafood as well as the watermen communities that depend on those fisheries to sustain local economies.
"Land-use planning, community health, sanitation and engineering and food safety are all linked issues," Firehock added. "That is why U.Va. is bringing all of these issues together in one forum and seeking cross-discipline solutions."

U.Va. is working on a sustainable approach to these problems by working on issues of global health, food safety, clean water, engineering, landscape design and community planning to help develop coordinated solutions to impaired and impoverished communities at multiple scales. Through the workshop brainstorming process, participants will enumerate the top three to five items to pursue.

Participants will also have the opportunity to explore local sustainability and health initiatives through poster displays present on both days of this symposium.

To register, send an e-mail to sustainabilityandhealth-conf@virginia.edu. A full conference agenda is available at www.arch.virginia.edu/symposia/sustainabilityandhealth/. The conference is free, and lunch will be provided to the first 100 people who sign up.

The conference is funded by the University of Virginia's Department of Urban and Environmental Planning, Department of Public Health Sciences, the Institute for Practical Ethics and Public Life and the International Medicine Club.

Contacts: Nisha Botchwey
(434) 924-1339, nhb3b@Virginia.EDU

Karen Firehock
(434) 975-6700 ext. 222, kef8w@Virginia.EDU