Health Beyond Health Care forum highlights creative efforts to build healthy communities

Last week the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) sponsored the Washington Post Live Forum Health Beyond Health Care, which focused on the innovations of investors, policymakers, architects and planners to address the challenge of improving the health of Americans.

As part of the RWJF strategic campaign Culture of Health, the event showcased the creative efforts that community leaders, businesses, and public officials are undertaking to improve health standards in urban centers and rural communities, and attempts to do more than talk about the connection between health and wellness.

One such project was the Buckingham County Primary and Elementary Schools at the Carter G. Woodson Education Complex in Dillwyn, Virginia, where a project team of architects and educators worked together to renovate a school complex that now encourages students to eat healthy and exercise. The discussion highlighted how a commitment to the end product required not only support from evidence-based research but also collaboration between partners.

“We had to learn the same language,” said Dina Sorensen, Project Designer, VMDO Architects when asked about the challenges she encountered when working on the redesign of the school. “The terminology used by architects is not the same as those in public health. While we had the same objectives for this project, we had to learn how to understand one another.”

Over the course of the morning, forum participants heard from a variety of speakers, including Rear Adm. Boris D. Lushniak, MD, MPH, the acting United States surgeon general; Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.); and Alice Rivlin, Senior Fellow, Economic Studies, Brookings Institution.

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) described how the state of Mississippi (currently rated as the most obese state in the country) is enacting targeted public health initiatives to educate residents that health care is as much treatment as it is prevention.

During the panel Designing the Day to Keep the Doctor Away Washington Post architecture critic Philip Kennicott led a discussion about incorporating health design into the sustainable and resilient principles of buildings with Margaret Montgomery, Principal and Sustainability Leader, NBBJ; Colin Raney, Associate Partner and Managing Director of the Boston studio, IDEO; and David Dixon, Senior Principal, Urban Group Leader, Stantec.

Additional information about the agenda and speakers can found on Health Beyond Health Care event webpage. The event was streamed live on June 18th from the offices of The Washington Post. You can view archives of the session on the Washington Post website.

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