Designing Healthy Cities to Reverse Obesity and Non-Communicable Disease Epidemics

Thursday, June 20, 2019 -  Friday, June 21, 2019 - 8:30 AM - 5:30 PM

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Course Description

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are now the leading causes of death globally and incur high healthcare costs. Obesity is a global pandemic that is rising rapidly. Physical inactivity and unhealthy diets are key risk factors. The scientific evidence has been accumulating for the important role of the built environment – our human-made buildings, streets and neighborhoods, and their amenities – in supporting or being barriers to physical activity and healthier eating. This course will teach health practitioners/students and non-health practitioners/students interested in health about successful interventions for improving the built environment to address obesity and NCDs, and strategies for implementing them in their own cities. Cities that have successfully implemented such interventions and achieved results, such as New York, will be used as case examples. The course uses lectures, group discussions and field case studies to help course participants begin this work in their own practice as professionals or would-be professionals.

Course Objectives

By the end of the course, participants will be able to:

  1. Identify today's key epidemics and their risk factors
  2. Identify the key built environment factors that impact active living and healthy eating
  3. Identify examples of successful policy and practice interventions for built environment improvements for physical activity and healthy eating
  4. Identify potential strategies for implementing such policy and practice interventions for improving the built environment for physical activity and healthy eating within their own cities


Participants should wear comfortable clothing and footwear, as a portion of the course will be dedicated to neighborhood walking tours.

Course Reading List
  1. World Health Organization. 2010. Global status report on non-communicable diseases 2010. Executive Summary. See:
  2. U.S. Community Preventive Services Task Force. The Guide to Community Preventive Services. See: and
  3. City of New York. Active Design Guidelines. New York: City of New York, 2010. See:
  4. Karen K. Lee. Working across sectors for health equity: the case of New York City. In World Health Organization and Metropolis. Cities For Health. Kobe: World Health Organization, 2014. See:
  5. Designed to Move. Active Cities: A Guide for City Leaders. 2015. See:

Additional Recommended Readings:

  1. Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, NYC Dept of Health and Mental Hygiene, Society for Public Health Education. Active Design Supplement: Promoting Safety. New York: City of New York, 2013. See:
  2. Nicoll G, Lee KK, Dubose J. Active Design: Affordable Designs for Affordable Housing. New York: City of New York, 2013. See:
  3. Rube K, Veatch M, Huang K, Sacks R, Lent M, Goldstein G, Lee KK. Developing Built Environment Programs in Local Health Departments: Lessons Learned from a Nationwide Mentoring Program. American Journal of Public Health 2014; 104(5): e10-e18


Karen Lee, MD, MHSc

Dr. Karen Lee ( is a Professor and healthy built environment and health policy advisor/consultant. Her team helps cities and organizations use the built environment – our buildings, streets, and neighborhoods – and other determinants of health to address the global epidemics of obesity and Non-Communicable Diseases. Previously, she was Inaugural Director of NYC Health Department's Built Environment Program for over 8 years where she led the development of the award-winning Active Design Guidelines and its multiple supplements, worked as a Deputy Medical Officer in public health departments in Canada, and was an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer with the US CDC. She also advises World Health Organization offices and is an Associate Professor at the University of Alberta. (February 1, 2018)

Course Fee

Registration is $825.00


The registration period has closed for this event.


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