Urban Health Centres & Good Neighbours
In recent years, there has been renewed interest in the connection between public health and urban planning. This growing connection has led to a number of encouraging steps. However, in many cases, the physical and social connections between hospitals and their surrounding neighbourhoods remain limited. The Brookings Institute highlighted this disconnect, and more importantly, the value of physically and socially connected health campuses in an important article. For many urban health centres, the problem is both inside and out. From the outside, health centres are often imposing and unfriendly structures that do not encourage community interaction. From the inside, patients and staff often have limited visual and physical access to their surroundings, despite the well-established health benefits of seeing greenery. This stark physical division can also manifest itself in the limited social and economic benefits for surrounding neighbourhoods. Better approaches are emerging, though. Integrated urban health centres offer a range of community benefits, but importantly, can also benefit health care providers. As the Brookings Institute article notes, open and integrated facilities can facilitate spontaneous interaction among staff, contributing to the cross-pollination of ideas and staff retention. Hospitals are designed to last for decades, and transforming them into community hubs won’t be an overnight task. However, by adopting contextually-appropriate strategies that support physical, social and economic connectivity, healthcare investment can have broad and positive societal impacts.