[Dis]placed by Illness: Lyme Disease as a Case for Re-Imagining Everyday Places to Recognize Invisible Chronic Illnesses
Janicki, Sylvia Hsin
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Over 300,000 people contract Lyme disease each year in the United States. Commonly known as a vector-borne illness, Lyme disease can also become a debilitating chronic condition that can affect individuals for the rest of their lives. More than 1.5 million people live with Lyme disease in the U.S., without a cure or clear path to recovery. This public health problem is strongly connected to design and planning disciplines. Human-induced landscape changes are a direct contributor to emerging vector-borne illnesses like Lyme disease. Yet our surrounding environment also offers great potential as a source of healing for populations living with chronic illness, particularly in the absence of medical treatment. However, these discussions are lacking in both professional practice and academic literature. Current built environment research in the context of public health largely focuses on illness prevention measures and designing for physical activities, and existing accessible design guidelines are largely limited to accommodating mobility disorders, overlooking the experience of people who live with complex and invisible forms of disabilities. This thesis explores the multifaceted relationship between human health and the built environment through the case of Lyme disease, as a vector-borne illness and as a chronic illness. The relationship between landscape dynamics and Lyme disease transmission is examined through a synthesis of existing research to understand how specific landscape patterns influence disease risk. More importantly, this thesis explores how living with an invisible chronic illness impacts the way people experience and navigate place by documenting first person stories through semi-structured interviews with individuals living with Lyme disease, and in turn, investigates different ways that the built environment, through design interventions, can provide a form of healing to people who live with such invisible chronic illnesses by supporting them not only physically, but emotionally and socially as well.
- Landscape architecture