The relationships between our trusted healthcare institutions and the patterns of development that they follow have significant consequences for the health of the population they serve. Concerned with requirements for safety, efficiency and security, health facilities have grown in size and scale throughout the twentieth century, often at the expense of walkability and livability and a connection to the surrounding neighborhoods.
The Health Districts initiative aims to address these issues at this critical juncture in our national healthcare debate and to assist hospitals in their efforts to “do no harm” to their surrounding neighbors. Livable, walkable neighborhoods are a critical component of healthy neighborhoods and of Health Districts - districts that contain one or multiple health facilities. With assistance from a team that includes representatives from federal agencies, architectural firms specializing in health planning, health systems, and schools of architecture, this initiative will work to advance urban design and planning criteria for Health Districts.
"As a medic working with returning Vietnam veterans, I would take vets on a walk down the street into the neighborhood. This was one of the best things we could do during their rehabilitation. And the same was true for my father when he returned from World War II. Daily walks just down the street to the church, park, or pool hall reconnected him to life after war." - John Norquist
The Affordable Care Act
The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, or “The Affordable Care Act”) is changing the business model of healthcare, with potential long-term benefits for patients, health systems and the needs of the community they serve with greater focus on wellness, prevention and community health. The Affordable Care Act has mandated that tax-exempt hospitals produce Community Health Needs Assessments (CHNA) every three years. These assessments, among other requirements, describe communities served and methods for receiving input on community interests. (See Notice 2011-52). This requirement is an excellent opportunity for health systems to improve public health by collaborating with their neighbors to build healthier, lifelong communities.
The Health Districts Initiative Team will focus on where they can have the greatest impact on fostering the creation of health districts. These include:
The initiative will draw on the CDC Sustainability Planning Guide for Healthy Communities, university research prepared by the University of Miami and the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health; the work of Lawrence D. Frank; thought leaders such as Henry G. Cisneros; Regional Planning Commissions; and hospital associations.
For more information, contact Alex McKeag,