Have you ever stopped to consider your work as that of a ‘communal doctor’ whose efforts are designed to impact individual quality of life, mental health, and ultimately, overall community health?
There is a growth in recent scientific research that reinforces the correlation between how communities are designed and built and the mental health of their residents. Our built cities have become urban ecosystems, biological communities of living things in a given area interacting with each other and the non-living environment. In a healthy ecosystem, each organism or element of the system has its own niche or contribution. There is a natural order of things that interconnect with each other, but many of our urban cities have failed to reach this harmony. It is becoming very apparent that social cohesion, relationships, and personal investment in the community – often referred to as ‘social capital’ – is an important determinant of overall community health, and therefore should play a bigger role in urban design.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that “The way that we design our communities and the commuting distances and times that result can affect the amount of time that is available for: extracurricular activities for our children, recreation/rejuvenation time for adults after work, community involvement activities such as neighborhood improvement projects and neighborhood association events, and time for family members to spend together. Circumstances that prevent or limit the availability of ‘social capital’ for a community and its members can have a negative effect on the health and well-being of the members of that community. These negative effects on health and well-being can in turn have negative effects on the community as a whole.”