Designing our environment for population health

Designing for Population Health Event with Cannon Design 51971

Big headline: tons of opportunity to improve health working with the real estate sector

Little headline: there are a lot of more things health professionals know about health that they can share with other industries than they realize

Littler headline: Walking works in every dialogue

I told co-host Whitney Gray, PhD, LEED-AP, from Cannon Design (@CannonDesign) that when a doctor walks a community, they observe the people walking around. She told me when real estate developers do, they repaint the skyline in their minds. What a cool job (in a greener grass kind of way).

Yesterday, the Kaiser Permanente Center for Total Health (@KPTotalHealth) and Cannon Design hosted an event that brought together real estate developers, architects, facilities executives from multiple health care systems (including ours), green building experts, community health experts and of course doctors to talk about designing and building a healthy community.

Our contribution was to fire up our brand new Total Health Across America interactive touch wall to show the data in interactive maps about our neighborhood and Washington, DC (Thank you, Community Commons @communitycommon), and then to walk, together, in a multidisciplinary way.

This is the part where I get to say thanks to the attendees and that I’m impressed/not surprised how well walking works. Washington was a little on the cold side, a little on the windy side, but people came with their walking shoes and walking spirit, to learn and teach in the laboratory that our capital is.

Population change by ward -1980 - 2010 - Washington, DC USA
Source: Urban Institute (@UrbanInstitute), Our Changing City

And it is a laboratory. The Center for Total Health exists in Ward 6, which has fared much better in the last 30 years than its neighbor, Ward 5. The data clearly shows it, and so does a walk, which tells a story. Note, by the way, that Ward 8 has actually lost population in the last 10 years, in a city that is growing by 800 people every month by current census numbers.

Be my guest and manipulate the map yourself. This one has homicides from 2011-2014 + Obesity percentages + health professional shortage areas shaded. Add and subtract layers, you’ll see.

If you’d like to do the walk but you aren’t convenient to Washington, DC, no problem, I photographed it for you, no extra charge. This one passes the first place the Beatles ever performed in the United States, next to one of the most notorious open-air drug markets during the crack epidemic in the 1990’s, next to new development that will feature one of those nationally known organic supermarkets, on a street that still has remnants of the destruction of the 1968 riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Definitely a laboratory.

Check out colleague Erin Meade (@erinm81)’s photos on the walk itself, also, they tell a story of what can be noticed by a community member by simply walking a neighborhood.

We looked at the power of open data, in real time, to help solve problems, courtesy of Deborah Bey, MA, MPA, MSW, PhD (@GeekyBlkGirl) as well as overviews of how (a) the health care and real estate worlds are changing and (b) how they are changing together. There are a few health people in real estate and vice versa.

I was actually surprised when people said, “I don’t know anything about health care,” but I shouldn’t have been, because why should they? Health professionals should leave our 2.9 trillion dollar bubble and explore around a little bit, there’s a lot that can be done, with a little bit of leadership and a lot of collaboration.

And by the way, I don’t know anything about real estate either, so it was as engaging for me to hear about the metrics used in development, as well as the tools builders use to do their craft. Maybe as engaging for builders to listen to health professionals do the same thing? I hope so, learning something new keeps people engaged 🙂 .

Rest of my photos from the day are below. Comments, ideas, welcome, thanks Whitney and Michael Pukszta from Cannon Design for co-hosting and being interested in designing for health. As the slide above says, their impact is going to be huge, and it’s going to help us.


Ted Eytan, MD