Urban Design for Medical Students

A co-curricular program at a Philadelphia medical school integrates public health and city planning.

February 5, 2018, 9:00 AM PST

By Elana Eden

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

A small park in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. | ChrisErb / Wikimedia Commons

The links between health and urban design have been studied since modern cities began to rise, and contemporary research has continued to chart the impacts of noise pollution, air quality, access to nature, and proximity to highways or major streets on physical and mental health. But only since 2015 has there been a university program combining medical practice, public health, and city planning to take a holistic view toward wellbeing in cities.

The JeffDESIGN program at Thomas Jefferson University Medical School has as its mission to "design healthier cities, find more efficient ways to deliver care and develop the next generation of medical devices." In a feature on Next City, Bill Bradley describes student projects ranging from mapping the inefficiencies of hospital layouts to designing a better playground by monitoring how kids play.

Launched in February 2015, the program focuses on a broad range of design applications aimed at impacting real people’s health, from 3D printing that will help improve surgery to redesigning the physical space of hospitals. Most importantly, it’s about exploring the ways infrastructure, community and the built environment can have a positive impact on health.

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