Richard Jackson, MD, MPH, is an internationally recognized environmental health expert who has done extensive work on the impact of the environment on health, particularly relating to children. He has centered on studies relating to epidemiology, infectious diseases and toxicology as the Chair of Environmental Health Sciences at UCLA.
Over the past decade much of his work has focused on how the ‘built environment’ including how architecture and urban planning affect health. The impact of community design and land-use choices on public health is especially important to Jackson. In 2004 he co-authored the book “Urban Sprawl and Public Health,” which argues that sprawl contributes to a wide range of diseases, from asthma to diabetes, hypertension and depression.
While in California, Jackson’s work led to the establishment of the California Birth Defects Monitoring Program, as well as state and federal laws that eliminated the use of several hazardous pesticides and “biomonitor” chemical levels in the US population. He served in many leadership positions with the California Public Health Department, including the highest, State Health Officer in 2004 and 2005 where he advanced the states disease preparedness efforts and public health effort to reverse the obesity epidemic. He was also instrumental in the re-creation of the California Department of Public Health, separate from the insurance functions from the former Department of Health Services.
Before that, he served 15 years as Director of the National Center for Environmental Health at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta where he established the National Asthma Epidemiology and Control Program and advanced the childhood lead poisoning prevention program. In the late 1990s Jackson was the lead CDC official in a multi-agency effort to establish the U.S. National Pharmaceutical Stockpile. The stockpile, which was activated on Sept. 11, 2001, is designed to help the nation quickly respond to large-scale terrorist acts or major disease outbreaks.
In 2005 he was recognized with the highest civilian award for U.S. Government service, the Presidential Distinguished Executive Award. In 2006 he received the Breast Cancer Fund’s Hero Award and at the UC Berkeley 2007 Commencement, the School of Public Health graduate students recognized him as the Distinguished Teacher and Mentor of the Year. He has served on many environmental and health boards such as the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Environmental Health, as well as the Board of Directors of the American Institute of Architects.
Currently, Dr. Jackson is working on policy analyses of environmental impacts on health ranging from toxicology, chemical body burdens, terrorism, sustainability, climate change, urban design and architecture. In addition, he is developing policy analyses in related areas, such as how farm, education, housing, and transportation policies affect health.