Ph.D. Defense by Arthi Rao

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Under the provisions of the regulations for the degree


on Wednesday, October 8, 2014
2:00 – 4:30 PM
in Architecture (East) 217
will be held the


Arthi Rao

“Landscape Anthropometrics: A multi-Scale Approach to Integrating Health into Regional Land Use Planning”

The Examiners Are:

Dr. Catherine Ross (Chair)
Dr. Brian Stone, Jr.
Dr. Gonzalo M. Vazquez-Prokopec

Faculty and students are invited to attend this examination.


The explication of “healthy places” is currently a discipline-specific endeavor, fragmented along three primary axes. The first type of dichotomy presents itself in the philosophical approaches to defining health and the man/nature duality that gets emphasized as a result (biocentric vs. anthropocentric approaches). The second rift is evident in the methods and metrics that are used to evaluate the impacts of the environmental envelope on human health. While most approaches use reductionist methods, holistic approaches are gradually gaining momentum. The third gap is with respect to scale. While there is abundant research investigating the connections between health and the built environment at the neighborhood scale, the connections at the regional scale remain largely unexplored. Thus, the main objective of this research is to create a consistent, scalable framework for incorporating health considerations into regional land planning for metropolitan areas. A prototypical framework is presented for the Atlanta metropolitan region.

Theoretically, this research incorporates disciplinary determinants of healthy places from Social/Landscape Epidemiology, Urban Planning and Landscape Ecology into the definition of landscape metrics. The key objectives of this research are to — 1) provide a new methodological approach to understanding urban form and health relationships through the use of landscape metrics 2) analyze urban form as a landscape composition/configuration to understand optimal mix, spatial distribution, complementary juxtapositions and proportions of land uses and socioeconomic factors that can support better health outcomes 3) understand the relevant scales at which landscape patterns matter for health outcomes.

Methodologically, this research examines associations between landscape patterns at multiple scales (metro, county and tract) with health outcomes as measured by mortality rates across numerous chronic conditions. Two primary research questions are explored towards the above stated objectives— 1) Are landscape patterns important determinants of mortality rates? 2) At what scale do landscape patterns matter for reduced mortality rates? The primary hypothesis to be tested is that “Landscape patterns characterized by high heterogeneity and juxtapositions of complementary land uses and social characteristics are associated with reduced mortality rates”. Descriptive analyses include the use of clustering techniques to identify spatial dependencies and associations. Hierarchical impacts of regional land use patterns on local health outcomes will be examined through multilevel modeling. From a policy perspective, the aim is to create a succinct set of landscape metrics that enable the combined inclusion of ecosystem and human health for sustainable land use planning in the long term.


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