Urban Fold

Therapeutic Cities

Anthony Townsend's picture

I'm reposting this from my Future of Cities blog. You're all invited to join our conversation over there: it's sort of for urban studies what Planetizen is for urban planning and design.

Some of you may know that my wife and I welcomed a little girl to the world last month (Stella!). Despite the fact that my mother was a nurse for 40 years - or perhaps because of it - I've never spent a lot of time around hospitals. In fact, like many of you I share an aversion to the centralization of sick people.

However, during the many down periods before and after the birth, I spent some hours wandering the campus of Mount Sinai Hospital and School of Medicine on Manhattan's Upper East Side. In addition to being a first-rate place for care (if it was good enough for Gwenyth Paltrow and her baby, its good enough for me), it's one of the nation's leading medical schools for research.

The experience - marked by moments like sharing a cafeteria table with some senior Mount Sinai surgeons and a flock of Eastern European visiting doctors eagerly soaking up the latest stent procedures - gave me a new understanding of the importance of biomedical research facilities for cites. At the Institute for the Future, my colleaugue Alex Pang and I have been looking at how science and R&D facilities are slowly but surely returning to cities (skip to page 71) after a long hiatus in the masted planned science cities and suburban science parks of the Cold War. One of my main realizations in this work was the deep linkage between teaching and research hospitals and biomedical innovation - put frankly, these places require lots of people to be patients, and subjects of clinical studies. Putting them in big cities makes a lot of sense.

Freshly inspired by the experience, I began drawing up an outline for a paper on what I'm calling "therapeutic cities". The main idea is that cities - in addition to being one of our best sustainability technologies - may be one of our best health technologies. There are many dimensions to this idea - from the benefits of walkability to the mental health of aging populations when they are integrated, not isolated.

I'll be developing this theme in future blog posts, but I wanted to post a link to a piece in The Economist that talks about the transformation of Cleveland by the Cleveland Clinic and Rochester, MN by the Mayo Clinic, to jumpstart the conversation.

Cleveland's 37,350 employees make it Ohio's second-largest private employer, after Wal-Mart. Mayo is Minnesota's biggest private employer, with a staff of more than 30,000 in Rochester and several thousand more who work for the regional health system. "One thing to note", says the Cleveland Clinic's chief executive, Delos Cosgrove, "is that health-care jobs are good jobs." Another thing worth noting is that neither the Cleveland Clinic nor Mayo has been touched by the national push to unionise nurses.

Read the full article

Technorati Tags: aging, health, health care, puppy

Anthony Townsend is a research director at the Institute for the Future (IFTF) in Palo Alto, California.



Michael Lewyn's picture

some transformation

The Economist article (accurately) states:

"The clinic itself sits in a poor neighbourhood where few employees live, preferring to drive in from the suburbs."

If this is transformation, I'd hate to see irrelevance.

Prof. Michael Lewyn
Florida Coastal School of Law
Jacksonville, FL

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