How Social Epidemiology Can Be Used to Plan & Design Healthy Places

The Healthy Places Design Lab is hosting a virtual event with Dr. Kawachi Ichiro, Professor of Social Epidemiology at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health. He will give a short lecture and host a Q&A on how research from social epidemiology can be used to plan & design healthy cities. The event details are below:

Healthy Aging Speaker Series | Fall 2021 | A GPS Survey in an Aging Community in Shanghai, November 16

Healthy Aging Speaker Series | Fall 2021

A GPS Survey in an Aging Community in Shanghai

Using data to reveal the characteristics of the older people’s daily mobility and the impact of the built environment

Speaker: Yifan Yu, Professor of Urban Planning, Director of Age-friendly Community Lab, Tongji University

When: 7:30 PM EST, November 16th, Tuesday, Where: ZOOM

Link to recorded presentation.

Moderator: Ann Forsyth, Ruth and Frank Stanton Professor of Urban Planning, Harvard University

Hosted by, Healthy Places Design Lab, at the Harvard Graduate School of Design


The spatial behavior of older adults is essentially the result of interactions between the people and the environment. Different from the traditional demographic-based measurement, this research attempts to reveal the temporal-spatial behavior characteristics of the older people with an individual-based trajectory analysis. Seventy-six older residents from a typical public housing neighborhood in Shanghai were asked to carry an Android Phone and wear Fitbit health bands. By collecting and analyzing the trajectory data through 102 consecutive days, we explored their mobility pattern and activity sequence, discovered the spatial anchor points that have an important impact, and looked into the possibility of using spatial intervention to promote healthy behaviors inside and outside the neighborhood.


Dr. YU Yifan is a professor of urban planning and the director of Age-friendly Community Lab at Tongji University. She obtained her PhD from Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, in Paris, France in 2003, visited GSD at Harvard University as a senior research fellow during 2013 and 2014. She serves as an overseas research fellow at Paris Sorbonne University, as well as a member of the Planning Standardization committee of the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, also serving as vice president of the Shanghai Urban Planning Association.


Healthy Aging Speaker Series | Fall 2021 Soft Wearable Robots for Augmenting and Restoring Human Performance

Speaker: Conor J. Walsh, Paul A. Maeder Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University

When: NOON (12 PM EST), November 4th, Thursday, Where: ZOOM

Click here or scan the QR code to register and receive the zoom link.

Moderator: Ann Forsyth, Ruth and Frank Stanton Professor of Urban Planning, Harvard University

This talk will give an overview of our work on developing disruptive soft wearable robot technologies for augmenting and restoring human performance and how we characterize their performance through biomechanical and physiological studies so as to further the scientific understanding of how humans interact with such machines. Our efforts are the result a multidisciplinary team of students and research staff with backgrounds in engineering, materials science, apparel design, industrial design, biomechanics, and physical therapy, in addition to valuable collaborations with colleagues from Harvard, Boston University, and beyond. Our long term vision is for ubiquitous soft wearable robots that can be worn all day, every day, in the community, home, sporting and workplace environments.

Conor Walsh GSD Talk 2021

About the speaker:


Healthy Places D-Lab Activities in 2021

In the first half of 2021, the D-Lab has been active in debates about healthy places, including issues of aging, livability, and climate change.

Article: A. Forsyth and J. Molinsky. What is Aging in Place? Confusions and Contradictions. Housing Policy Debate 31, 2: 181-196, 2021.

Blog:  W. Airgood-Obrycki, J. Molinsky. Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities Score Lower on Livability, January 2021.

Talk: Education of Future Public Health Spatial Planning Workforce, Panelist, Public Health England, Ann Forsyth, July 2021.

Article: Y. Lyu, A. Forsyth, and S. Worthington. Built Environment and Self-rated Health: Comparing Young, Middle-aged, and Older People in Chengdu, China. HERD: Health Environments Research and Design, 2021.

Article: Y. Lyu and A. Forsyth. Attitudes, Perceptions, and Walking Behavior in a Chinese City. Journal of Transport and Health, 2021

Talk: Meaningful Ageing: Shaping a better Future for China’s Elderly, Discussant, Harvard University, Ann Forsyth, June, 2021.

Talk:  Health and Cities, Sir Peter Hall Lecture, Bartlett School of Planning, University College London, Ann Forsyth, May 2021.

Report: J. Molinsky, W. Airgood-Obrycki, R. Harrell, S. Guzman, Which Older Adults Have Access To America’s Most Livable Neighborhoods? An Analysis Of AARP’s Livability Index, Harvard JCHS.

Blog: J. Molinsky, W. Airgood-Obrycki, Housing and Livable Neighborhoods, February, 2021.

Article: A. Forsyth and R. Pesier. Lessons from Planned Resettlement and New Town Experiences for Avoiding Climate Sprawl. Landscape and Urban Planning 205: article 103957, 2021.

Talk:  Healthy Communities, Urban Planning, and COVID-19, Tongji/ADB (Virtual), Ann Forsyth, December 2020.

COVID-19 Work by the Healthy Places D-Lab

The Healthy Places D-Lab continues to address COVID-19. For earlier work see our June 7, 2020 posting.

J-Term Workshop: Small Farm to Food Insecure: Matching Needs with Surplus. Harvard Graduate School of Design,  Kira Clingen, MLA/MDes’21, Tessa Crespo, MDes ’20, and Amy Thornton, MDes ’20, January 2021.

Talk: Healthy Communities, Urban Planning, and COVID-19. Asian Development Bank/Tongji University, Ann Forsyth, December 2020.

Panel: Four Paths, Post COVID-19: Lessons for Planning Future Cities. ACSP Conference, Ann Forsyth, November 2020.

Editorial: Speaking to the Future: COVID-19 and the Planning Community. Journal of the American Planning Association 86, 3: 281-283, Ann Forsyth, June 2020.

Blog: Designing Senior Housing for Safe Interactions in the Age of COVID-19, Jennifer Molinsky, August 2020.

Blog: As Economy Reopens, Guidance Must Consider Older Adults’ Living Situations, Jennifer Molinsky, June 2020.

Small Farm to Food Insecure: Matching Needs with Surplus, January 4

Enrollment is open for up to 12 GSD students to engage in a workshop on the food environment on Monday January 4 from 9am-12 noon Eastern. Enroll here. Find more about the project on their web site, What We’ve Gleaned.

Instructors: Kira Clingen, MLA/MDes’21, Tessa Crespo, MDes ’20, and Amy Thornton, MDes ’20
Zoom Link:
Max Enrollment: 12

In the late winter of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic threw the United States into a state of chaos an acute dual and contradictory crisis caught our attention. Due to the closing of institutions and restaurants, farmers across the country tilled under crops and poured milk down the drain, unable to sell their goods. Simultaneously, the percentage of the food insecure rose dramatically. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, it was estimated that 1 in 11 Massachusetts families or 9% faced food insecurity. Due to COVID-19, that number increased to 38% according to Project Bread President Erin McAleer. Aware that food surplus and food insecurity was already existent; we were still stunned by the magnitude during this crisis. How was it possible that food was thrown away while so many did not have enough to feed themselves?

As designers, we believe our skills can serve the challenges faced by small local farmers and the food insecure in New England, exacerbated by COVID-19, climate change, and other crises yet unknown. However, we know our answers must come from those already engaged in this work otherwise assumptions made are not only arrogant but irrelevant and inapplicable. Thus, we interviewed small farmers, institutional food producers, distributors, Food Bank employees, gleaning organizations, food skills educators, and food shelf volunteers to discover from those doing the work of growing, distributing and consuming the food where successes and challenges lie, to amplify the work already in action, and discover where change is best made to collectively create solutions. Through these interviews we found that the COVID-19 crisis amplified broader, long-standing issues within our food system such as the stranglehold of large food distribution companies, the challenges of storage and timely transportation, the difficulty in providing nutrient-rich fresh food to the food insecure, the insufficient crop yield and time of harvest data for small farms, and the undervaluing of fresh local food, the small farm, and skilled food work.

This course will be one 3-hr session starting with a discussion period about how scale and distance impact the design process, especially in regards to rural, agricultural landscape, followed by a short lecture on our key findings and the ways in which we believe designers might help. We will then hold a collaborative sketching and brainstorming session and come together to share and critique our concepts and ideas to move forward.

This project was funded through the 2020 COVID-19 Participatory Budgeting process.

Date Mon, Jan 4
Time 9am – 12pm