Co-designing Healthy Communities: How Can Health Care Providers, Designers, and Community Members Work Together To Build Healthier, More Equitable Places?

Bon Ku
Wendy Sue Swanson
Matthew Trowbridge


Research shows that where we live is a critically important determinant of our overall health and well-being. For example, in New Orleans, average life expectancy varies by as much as 25 years in communities only a few miles apart. Health care needs to take a more active role in addressing these disparities by partnering with and investing in the professionals, industries, and community groups that shape, build, and operate the places we each live, learn, work, and play. In this panel discussion, moderated by Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, we will highlight emerging examples of healthcare providers and researchers partnering directly with architects, urban planners, school districts, and housing authorities to promote health and well-being for all through the design of the built environment. Dr. Trowbridge will describe his collaboration with VMDO architects in rural Virginia to design an elementary school as a community resource for promoting healthy eating and physical activity among its youngest members ( Dr. Ku will describe his collaboration with the non-profit organization (Studio Ludo, and their work together to apply public health and clinical expertise to design safer, more engaging, and social playgrounds in Philadelphia. Dr. Akom will highlight his efforts to help community members, particularly in low income and minority neighborhoods, have a stronger voice in community development decision making through his cutting-edge ‘Street Wyze’ app platform (
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