Designing For Health

The Lempert Report
September 01, 2015

Check out this innovative approach one school is taking to combat childhood obesity!

It’s nothing new that childhood obesity rates are at an all-time high, and several schools are taken varying approaches, such as banning junk food, to help the situation. But now some schools are embracing a whole new idea to help kids get fitter:  Architecture.

According to a recent article in, a 1950s-era elementary school in Virginia was redesigned to help kids lose weight. How? The architects worked with public health researchers to make several changes based on various research. For example, designing a kitchen with dedicated storage space for seasonal fruit, and placing healthy meals at kids'-eye level in the checkout line and even placing salad bars near checkout stations. 

Other research showed that various design strategies are beneficial for students. At the Virginia elementary school for example, a priority was making the commercial kitchen visible from the dining room, so students could watch as their lunch is made. And nearby they also developed a teaching kitchen, where students can learn to make healthy meals from produce grown in the school garden, and a food lab was designed for food-related science experiments.

Matt Trowbridge, an associate professor at the University of Virginia, who helped create the design guidelines, was quoted in as saying; "The environments in which we live affect not just our behaviors, but our lifelong attitudes about things like healthy eating and active lifestyles. It's also clear that it's so much better to help prevent children from becoming obese than to try to help adults lose weight. So that makes school environments incredibly important."

The idea of designing for health is becoming popular and something that supermarkets should be utilizing and allowing their customers to benefit from. Appealing fresh produce displays, placing health items close to check out and even for kids placing colorful produce and healthy foods at their eye level can help boost appeal.