Improving the health of communities and populations through design

How can design make a difference in our communities and improve the health of our residents at the same time? This feeling isn’t something we’ve all been just thinking about due to the global pandemic, but instead, this has been an area of ​​focus for decades. However, as stated in the first installation of this Articles Series, COVID-19 is an accelerator and catalyst for change. So, can we be the generation that makes a difference?

Looking at the general conditions in our societies, we can see a variety of issues such as food deserts leading to malnutrition, a lack of affordable housing, and disproportionate access to care – along with increasing addictions, increasing behavioral health needs, and a sedentary lifestyle. Driving unhealthy groups within a population. With 10 to 20 percent of a person’s health driven by healthcare quality, as shown in several studies and highlighted in 2017 paper “Social Determinants of Health 101 for Healthcare: Five Plus Five,” in the National Academy of Medicine, we must look beyond hospital walls to look to improve our health.

Much attention has been paid to COVID-19 over the past year, and rightfully so. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Transfer, “Provisional Death Data – United States, 2020” indicates that of the total deaths in the United States last year 690,000 were due to heart disease, 598,000 due to cancer, and 345,000 due to COVID-19. by search ultimate health, of the more than 1.3 million claims from COVID-19, 76 percent of those cases were exacerbated by comorbidity. We can conclude that a lower number of 345,000 was a direct result of the COVID-19 virus. However, it changed our lives forever. How much influence can we take as a society to try to eradicate the diseases and other conditions that drive up health care costs and bring the United States down the list? quality health outcomes?

according to Center for Disease Control Studying the “Health and Economic Costs of Chronic Diseases”, the most important chronic diseases that affect health in our societies include heart disease, diabetes, obesity and even tooth decay. Of the top eight identified in the report, many are considered preventable. As a society, we have to make a shift to take responsibility for our health and focus resources on where the greatest impact can be made. As designers, we can make a positive impact by encouraging better health behaviors for those who use the buildings and places we design and guiding clients to make choices that will help them see the social benefit of investing in community health.

The first priority is to create a purposeful movement. As designers, we can encourage movement by creating programs and designing spaces to design a physical response. a paper Posted in American Journal of Epidemiology He cites that replacing sitting with 30 minutes of activity a day will help a person live a longer and healthier life by 17 percent. to me studies By the National Institute of Health, people in communities that encourage walking and cycling within the normal course of their routine have better overall health compared to communities that require motorized transportation. The response of designers should be to do more to create solutions that encourage movement and connect spaces and programs in a way that users can experience health and well-being.

Taking it a step further, what if all our major needs could be met within 15 minutes of walking, cycling or public transportation? Rather than segregating distinct neighborhoods or areas for activities, methods that blend economic and social functions together in a more compact urban footprint would drive a more connected and vibrant community. For healthcare, this might resemble a larger decentralized community health network versus a single hospital. In the article, “The 15-Minute City – No Cars Required – is the new utopia of urban planning, in BloombergCarlos Moreno, the mayor of Paris’ special envoy for smart city development, says the idea of ​​a “15-minute city” was essentially created to reduce carbon emissions, yet he hopes to make Paris a “nearby city”, where the streets and squares of life can meet Welcoming and safe.

While a more sustainable society is good for the planet, it can also affect the health of the population. The World Health Organization calculates that 24 percent Of the deaths in the world are caused by issues related to the environment, such as climate change, which affects a society’s ability to have clean air, safe drinking water, food and shelter security. Finding strategies that showcase environmental stewardship, and creating renewable and environmentally responsive solutions that can clean the air, sequester carbon, or produce energy are ways to protect the environment, while at the same time making society healthier.

The most obvious thing than ever is that we need to work together to help build stronger, healthier communities.

Jim Henry, AIA, NCARB, is Senior Vice President, and Director of Health at CallisonRTKL. It can be accessed at [email protected]. In this series, he will explore how accelerating change is shaping our healthcare systems, built environments, and ways of thinking when it comes to safe and healthy design.


Read previous installments here:

Accelerated change: openness to new ideas

Using telemedicine to increase access to health care

What do you think?

Written by Joseph

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