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Design For Health

How Do People Connect Places and Health in Practice?

I am often asked how to connect health and place, practically. There are two main ways of thinking about this–one relates to topics and another to methods.

In terms of topics there are several lists available. Most end out looking like the following list, adapted from Design for Health (http://www.designforhealth.net/resources/generalhealthissues.html). However other, quite similar, lists exist (http://www.hiaguide.org/sectors-and-causal-pathways/pathways). They mix health issues and environmental features mainly because different issues are thought about in those terms. They also play out differently for various groups including children, seniors, people with low incomes, and so on.
Self-build housing in Beihai, China
  • Accessibility to places, people, and services that can promote health
  • Air quality
  • Disasters–including climate change
  • Environment + housing quality related to pollutants
  • Food quality
  • Healthcare access
  • Mental health–often related to stress (e.g. plants can reduct stress)
  • Noise
  • Physical activity options
  • Safety—from accidents and crime
  • Social capital/connections–with complicated relations to place
  • Water quality

A range of methods help practitioners make these connections:

  1. Policy and Program Collaborations: The UN Healthy Cities Program is an example, focusing on building awareness and collaboration among partners including governments and universities.
  2. Health Impact Assessments: These are actually a range of tools, both participatory and technical, aiming to link local knowledge and health research/data maximize health benefits+ minimize health risks for all groups. They can be done on a range of policies, programs, and plans, not only ones affecting places.
  3. Quality of Life Tools: This is a term for a range or preexisting tools and methods that focus on the connection of people and place, and connections between people. Examples include safety audits, food security assessments, and asset maps. Various social development tools such as anti-racism trainings with a place-based approach, also fit in this category.
  4. Healthy Community Plans and Designs: Such proposals translate health research into practice at scales from the building to the region.

Therapeutic Landscapes Network at http://www.healinglandscapes.org/

 

Garden landscape
(Photo by Ann Forsyth)

Focusing on gardens and other landscapes, with a particular emphasis on gardens in healthcare settings, the web site of the Therapeutic Landscapes Network is a well-designed and maintained resource. I have found the following sections to be particularly helpful:

The evidence-based design section at http://www.healinglandscapes.org/ resources-ebd.html includes online searchable databases, books, and articles.

The gardens overview at http://www.healinglandscapes.org/gardens-overview.html links to ressources on various kinds of healing gardens including those in healthcare, community gardens, prison gardens, and memorial gardens.
A section on art and health http://www.healinglandscapes.org/related-art-health.html [no longer available] provides a succinct overview of important resources.

For further reading, the Design for Health web site deals with planting and mental health at: http://www.designforhealth.net/resources/mentalhealthissue.html

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