COVID-19 and the Healthy Places D-Lab

The Healthy Places D-Lab has been involved with the pandemic through a series of activities:

Blog: Older Adults in the Workforce: Facing Economic and Health Risks During the COVID-19 Pandemic, JCHS, Alexander Hermann and Jennifer Molinsky, June 2020

Keynote Panel: Writing the Next Chapter: Possibilities of the Post-pandemic City. University of Washington, Ann Forsyth, May 2020.

Blog: The Pandemic is Stress Testing Aging in Place, Milken Institute, Chris Herbert and Jennifer Molinsky, April 2020.

Open House Lecture: What is a Healthy Place? Harvard GSD, Ann Forsyth, April 2020.

Feature: What Role do Planning and Design Play in a Pandemic? Ann Forsyth, March 2020


Participatory Budgeting 2019-2020

In the 2019-2020 academic year the Healthy Places Student Group sponsored a participatory budgeting process, one of the first in higher education. Focusing on helath equity there were two rounds–one in the fall and another after COVID-19 made the school virtual in the late spring. These processes involved multiple meetings, events, and surveys.

Building Social Infrastructure for Bicycling Infrastructure

As a key strategy to building healthy places, cities across the world are physically reshaping their streets by expanding infrastructure dedicated solely for bicycling. From Cambridge to Bogota and Oslo to Seville, cities not located in The Netherlands are doubling-down on bicycling.

However, there is a growing recognition that in order to promote wide-scale adoption of bicycling, investments in physical infrastructure must also be paired with investments in social infrastructure. As defined by Dr. Adonia Lugo, the social infrastructure are the social networks and human relationships that build a community that values bicycling.

In order to promote social infrastructure for bicycling in our local community, in March 2019, the Healthy Places GSD student group thus hosted the Boston area premiere of Why We Cycle, a documentary about Dutch cycling culture. Overall, the event was a huge success as about 200 people packed into the GSD’s Piper Auditorium.

The film screening was followed by a panel moderated by Lily Song of the Harvard GSD, featuring Michelle Cook of Roxbury Rides, Angela Johnson of Transportation for Massachusetts, Cara Seiderman of the City of Cambridge, and Anne Lusk of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Although there are many countervailing forces against bicycle urbanism in the United States, such as a rise in cycling deaths and a cultural and economic apparatus that impels people to own motor vehicles, our event showed that there is a large appetite for a different urban future in Boston. A future urban mobility that allows residents to improve their health and mitigate climate change at the same time.

Cycling truly can transform a society. And social infrastructure events like ours are important pedals forward in achieving that vision for the Boston area.

This event was generously supported by the Transforming Urban Transport Project, the Department of Urban Planning & Design, the Department of Environmental Health, the Department of Nutrition, the Harvard Office of Sustainability, the Planetary Health Alliance, and the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment.

Lunchtime Lecture: Erica Walker, Noise and the City

Do you have the right to peace and quiet? To piano-filled or piano-free enjoyment? Noises like car horns, leaf blowers, crying babies, parties, protestors, and building construction fill urban life, but they could be affecting our health.

Join Healthy Places GSD for a lunchtime lecture with Erica Walker, a researcher on community noise. Walker investigates with participatory citizen science tools such as her NoiseScore app, bringing equity and justice to soundscapes. Her work has been featured in The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal.

Lunch will be catered by Fresh Food Generation, a farm-to-plate food truck started by MIT DUSP alumna Cassandria Campbell to bring Caribbean-inspired healthy food to underserved neighborhoods.

Monday, November 26, 2018
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM
Gund Hall Room 124

Speaker Biography

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The Future of Food Systems Planning: Panel, Discussion, Dinner

What is the future of food systems planning?

The success of the food movement has gained traction nationally. Yet, there are still many structural dimensions of the food system that have negatively impact people, health, and the environment. What comes next in food systems planning? How do we get there? Join Healthy Places GSD for cocktails, a panel with practitioners, policy experts, and academics, and a delicious vegetarian meal provided by Roxbury-based Fresh Food Generation. We will be discussing some of the changing opportunities, challenges, and contradictions in the movement to create a more sustainable and more just food system.

Friday, April 20, 2018
6:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Harvard University Center for the Environment
26 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

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Seeing Dorchester Grow with the Urban Farming Institute

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On Saturday, November 18th, the Healthy Places GSD student group ventured out to Dorchester to visit the Urban Farming Institute of Boston (UFI). The organization has been turning empty lots into urban farms, which become part of a community land trust. UFI uses these green spaces celebrate Boston’s diverse food cultures, train farmers, educate others about the benefits of urban farming, and advocate for it on the state and local levels. Learn more about the Urban Farming Institute here.

We give a special thanks to Barbara Knecht, the Project Leader for Farm Site Development at the Institute and a former Loeb Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, for making this event possible.

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Healthy Places GSD Happy Hour

Meet students interested in health and the built environment. Learn about their experiences and exchange ideas while enjoying food and drinks. Appetizers will be provided by Healthy Places GSD.

Friday, October 13, 2017
5:30 PM

John Harvard’s Brewery & Ale House
33 Dunster Street
Cambridge, MA


Creating Healthy Places: The Role of Planning & Design in Promoting Health

The environments in which people live and work can have longstanding consequences for their health. Efforts to better understand these connections have spawned a growing body of research and intervention in the public health, planning and design fields.

This lecture reviews existing knowledge on the connections between health and the design of the built environment and how these lessons are being applied to improve the health of residents in the Greater Boston Region.


  • Ann Forsyth, Professor of Urban Planning, Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD)
  • Barry Keppard, Public Health Director, Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC)

Thursday, September 21, 2017
1:00 – 2:00 PM
Room 109, Gund Hall