The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” As people spend over 90% of their time indoors, simply put, the living environment affects health outcomes and vice versa . This event, held by the Urban Land Institute Philadelphia and the Women’s Leadership Initiative, kicked off by giving an example of the new Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC) workplace building design showing positive health outcomes. The building has stairs that employees actually uses, floor-to-ceiling windows for a mental break, and snack bars for social gathering/ team building events. Hence, designing the workplace and living environment that promotes healthy lifestyles is crucial.
The living environment has four main exposure pathways impacting human health, respectively are lifestyles, such as diet, smoking, and physical activity; physical-chemical pollutants, like temperature, odor, and water contamination; ecosystems, like urban land use, walkability, and green spaces; last but not least, social determinants, such as income, race and ethnicity, and cultural norms . Ann Marie Healy, Executive Director, of Philadelphia Health Partnership, touches upon these four exposure pathways when working with communities. Working with communities, the two main focuses for Philadelphia Health Partnership are ensuring easy and accurate access to health information for community members and building a team to support community leaders in dealing with health stressors.
Vulnerable populations unevenly burden by the negative impacts of the environment, shown in their physical and mental health outcomes. Especially for homeless population when they are constantly experiencing the uncertainty of the environment. Liz Hersh, Director, of the Office of Homeless Services, City of Philadelphia, points out that housing is a social determinant of health. This health problem is a land use issue at heart. Multiple vacant lots and properties sitting in Kensington and other parts of the city are available for productive and adaptive reuse that provides different stages of housing for the homeless population. There is no silver bullet in addressing this issue. Creating housing through adaptive reuse, or building tiny house village on city land are initial steps in providing the intermediate steps for people in accumulating wealth and dealing with personal health while transitioning out the homelessness.
Carrie Collins, Chief Advancement & Strategic Planning Officer, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, introduced the Chestnut Hill Hospital Alliance as a case of advancing health care through partnerships. This alliance, formed between Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Temple Health, and Redeemer Health, attracts world-class health practitioners into this region.
Similarly, Donna E.M. Bailey, Chief Integrated Health Services Officer, Public Health Management Corporation, shared that the PHMC Public Health Campus on Cedar project includes partners from PHMC, PennMedicine, and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). The campus at Cedar works on closing the healthcare disparity gap by documenting the public health of the region and training students with first-hand experience. Liz, Director of the Office of Homeless Services, mentioned the strength of Philadelphia’s Eds and Meds sector gives language in research of housing and its relation to public health that further translates for developers, architects, health care workers, and policymakers in engaging into this topic.
Under the changing climate, there is increasing uncertainty in shaping a healthy environment. The author would like to provide a few starting points. First, understand the range of options for creating a healthy environment, whether it is redesigning an interior of a building, upgrading energy systems, adding vegetation in the building, or providing bike storage spaces. Second, upgrading heating and cooling systems for residential and commercial properties, or retrofitting building energy systems for better efficiency greatly saves costs and improves individual health. Last, partnering or engaging with health experts, planners, landscape architects, and architects during the planning phase with goal of a healthy environment is key.
As the audience asked where panelists see opportunities for partnerships, the panelists welcome all private, public, and communities to reach out to them with any innovative ideas. As they are open to conversations and partnerships in moving towards equitable development in Philadelphia.
 World Health Organization. 2022. WHO remains firmly committed to the principles set out in the preamble to the Constitution.
 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 1989. Report to Congress on indoor air quality: Volume 2. EPA/400/1-89/001C. Washington, DC.
 Vermeulen R., Schymanski E.L., Barbási A. and Miller G.W. 2020. The exposome and health: Where chemistry meets biology. Science, Vol. 367 (6476), pp.392-396.