Washington University’s Institute for Public Health has awarded interdisciplinary grants to projects in The Ville and Pagedale, which are being spearheaded by architecture faculty members in collaboration with faculty from other departments at Washington University.
Jodi Rios, senior lecturer and Institute for Public Health Scholar, is involved with "Health Impact Assessment: Promoting Health Priorities in Policy, Planning and Design," which will provide insights and recommendations on how to reduce health inequities in Pagedale.
Don Koster, senior lecturer, is involved with "Nourishing an Urban Community: Phase I," which addresses the health needs of community members in The Ville, one of St. Louis’ most historically significant but neglected urban neighborhoods.
Recognizing the growing need for design strategies that promote healthy communities and sustainable development, this initiative seeks to identify the issues and disparities facing the community of Pagedale, a lower-income suburb in north St. Louis County. That information will inform planning, programming and design for a proposed community revitalization plan to be implemented by the City of Pagedale and the non-profit community development organization, Beyond Housing.
The assessment will use measures such as physical assessment, household surveys, focus groups, photo-voice exercises, and stakeholder interviews to gather community input and data. In addition, teams of researchers will look at aspects of community identity and social cohesion and measure community access to healthy foods, credit, and the state of the city infrastructure.
Rios is one of the principal investigators for the Health Impact Assessment, along with Christine Hoehner, PhD, MSPH, assistant professor of the Siteman Cancer Center Prevention and Control Program. Other WU partners include the Center for Social Development, and community partners include Saint Louis University, the City of Pagedale, Beyond Housing, Regional Housing and Community Development Alliance, and St. Louis County.
In addition to the $20,000 collaborative research grant and $20,000 seed funding from the IPH, the Health Impact Assessment, the first to be implemented in the Midwest, is supported by a $150,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and a $20,000 grant from the Center for Social Development. Data gathered from the assessment will be used to develop a framework for integrating healthy living priorities into future planning and policy.
The Sam Fox School began its involvement with Beyond Housing and the city of Pagedale in 2007. Since then, Rios has led two interdisciplinary seminars focused on social issues and community development in this area, and and is presently facilitating a design/build studio and seminar.
The overarching goal of this project is the establishment of sustainable, integrated, community-based gardening, nutrition, and fitness programs emanating from a local garden-market place.
As part of this initial phase of the project, health fair events will be conducted in The Ville, and cardiovascular risk data for community residents will be obtained through free health screenings. Nutrition education programs will also be developed an integrated into the public school curriculum. Further phases of the project propose programs to target the prevention of childhood obesity
The initiative is a collaborative effort spearheaded by faculty members from the Sam Fox School and the School of Medicine: Koster; Dr. Susan Racette, Assistant professor in the Program in Physical Therapy and Department of Medicine; and Dr. Ruth Clark, Assistant Professor in the Program in Physical Therapy and Department of Neurology. Previous relationships with the City of St. Louis Health Department and the St. Louis Public Schools have also been cultivated in recent months.
“This new funding will have an immediate impact and provides the initial resources necessary to support the research of our public health partners, a critical component to putting our urban neighborhoods on a path to wellness and building sustainable communities,” Koster said.
The new initiative marks the latest collaborative effort between students and faculty at Washington University, local partners, and The Ville community. The College of Architecture began its involvement in the neighborhood back in January 2007, when Koster and his students began the Ville Market Place Project, a unique community-based design partnership aimed at spurring investment, redevelopment, and entrepreneurship in the neighborhood.
Over the past two years, Sam Fox School undergraduate and graduate architecture students have worked closely with community members, as well as partners such as the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Midwest Development LLC, to design the market place, an indoor-outdoor community farmers’ market structure and urban garden. An emphasis was placed on creating an environmentally sustainable structure that could be affordably built while meeting community needs.