The quality of the physical environment affects people’s health and wellbeing
Although both health and living conditions have improved significantly in the western world, we are now experiencing new types of health problems; lifestyle related diseases of physical, social and/or mental origins. These health threats cannot only be countered by proper nutrition and medical advances alone; a sharper focus on the sources of many of the problems is needed including the quality of the built environment. Health and wellness are influenced by the places in which people live, learn, work, and play and well designed communities can better support health and well-being and make healthy choices easy and affordable. Rethinking the ways the physical environment is planned, designed and constructed is necessary; the habitat, which we share with other species; our homes, workplaces, outdoor spaces, streets and paths, transportation systems, neighborhoods and districts, villages, towns and cities.

Dr. Thorleifsdottir teaches the following courses in Landscape Architecture and Design Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. How the built environment affects people’s health and wellbeing and how designing more sustainable urban environments that minimize impact on natural resources and increase the quality of urban living are the fundamental questions asked. The courses are a new addition to the Environmental Design and Health [linkur kemur síðar] concentration in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Department of Design Studies. The EDH framework focuses design research and practice on the built environment as one determinant of health as well as a central feature of health disparities.

DS 221 Person and Environment Interaction [linkur a flyer] is an undergraduate level course in Design Studies and Landscape Architecture introducing the field of Environment and Behavior and its main theories, key terms, and analytical methods for the documentation of environmental stimuli in the urban environment. The central focus is the identification of people’s behavioral patterns, perceptions, values, and attitudes to inform community design aimed at promoting health and wellbeing.

LA 375 Health Promoting Environments Design Studio [linkur á flyer] is an undergraduate level course in Landscape Architecture with an emphasis on Environment and Behavior, sustainability and community design principles aimed at increasing the quality of urban living, promoting people’s health and wellbeing, and minimizing impact on natural resources. In the course students learn about project programming, sustainability rating systems, performance standards and metrics, inventory and analysis of natural, cultural and experiential factors, evidence-based design and design thinking processes.

LA 675 Designing Healthy Communities, a graduate level seminar in Landscape Architecture with an emphasis on sustainable community design aimed at promoting people’s health and wellbeing through place-making principles. With a cross-disciplinary approach, the course focuses on the health benefits of good design, the importance of applying evidence-based design approaches, sustainability at different scales, site analysis techniques, environment-health ratings scales, health indicators, environmental determinants, Biophilic design etc.