Healthcare has been making headlines for the past few weeks—less because of a sudden interest in good health and more because of the government's recent glitch-tastic bummer of a website launch.
But the very idea of well-being continues to change in a lot more ways than just the introduction of an online health exchange. Last week, the San Francisco chapter of the American Institute of Architects hosted a day-long symposium exploring what's next for the way we're cared for and how we care for ourselves. Here are four ideas from an afternoon PechaKucha exploring community, innovation, and design.
The city as gym
What if elements of urban architecture were designed to be used like fitness equipment—if we began to look at our cities as massive gyms designed for movement? Kinda like a Parkour perspective (for normal folks): we'd begin to see dual purposes in the existing structures all around us Benches are for sitting... but also for triceps dips. Buildings themselves could sport hidden features that enable people to get physical on a whim— like, say, monkey bars for a few pull-ups on the way to work.
Douglas Burnham, founder and principal of envelope A+D in San Francisco which acts as the architect, developer, and curator of Proxy in Hayes Valley, teamed up with the bootcampy Basic Training to successfully crowdfund a pop-up fitness hub in an unused parking lot incorporating exactly these kinds of concepts.
Patients are consumers; active, not passive
We're smack dab in the midst of a healthcare revolution. Wearable tech like FuelBands and Fitbits, and access to genetic info via firms like 23andMe (once they are FDA-approved, of course), gives consumers more power when it comes to their own well-being. Patients are active consumers, and healthcare experiences need to be designed with this in mind; they have to be charismatic, satisfying experiences, not just transactions.
John Edson, president at San Francisco-based design studio LUNAR, pointed to his firm's work on Ventus Provent, a sleep apnea solution that swaps the unwieldy CPAP apparatus for small nostril valves, resulting in a far less Bane-from-Batman nighttime ritual.
The future of healthcare is about systems, not buildings
"We shouldn't want hospitals," said David Grandy, director of HDR Architecture's Insight Studio. "They're expensive to build, they're expensive to maintain, they're expensive to operate, and ultimately we're incentivized to keep people out. Hospitals are really just high-dollar illness factories; and what we should be focusing on is health."
People are making big decisions about their well-bring in regular, daily environments all the time—at home, at cafes, at the gym—and establishing holistic systems that span tech, technicians, people, and places, rather than just structures, should be the main consideration. The hospital should be a trauma center, not a space set specially aside where we're finally allowed to talk about what ails us.
The quest for meaning can be a powerful tool for change
Mike North's hosting duties on the Discovery Channel's Prototype This! allowed him to test out backyard waterslide simulators and robot pizza delivery, but he felt that he could be doing something more with his knowhow. So he developed a prototype, 3D-printed brace for children born with clubfoot that clocks in at a fraction of the price for the traditional models and offers an affordable alternative for low-income families in developing countries.
In order to inspire others and help make key connections, he then established Re-Allocate, a site where people can post social-good projects, and connect with others with the skills to help out.
What do you think? Urban fitness equipment has already been attempted, for instance, in many public parks, yet very few people actually use them to do crunches. There is also the 24-hour ghetto pass workout, which hasn't actually exploded across the nation.
What would you do to help embed a new definition of personal well-being into the structures of everyday life?