This studio, titled Empowering Healthy Futures is a charge by the City of New York's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and supported by the Healthy Materials Lab at Parsons. The students are developing the design of one of eleven new Neighborhood Health Action Centers across the five boroughs. Our site is located in Brownsville New York which is the seventh poorest district in the city. These centers are part of an initiative by the City of New York to increase health directed, community-based programs in neighborhoods with disproportionate chronic disease and premature death. As stated by Dr. Mary Bassett, Commissioner, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene “Poor health outcomes tend to cluster in places that people of color call home and where many residents live in poverty”. One of the primary health areas of concern in Brownsville is its high rates of infant mortality, ranking fourth in NYC the studio is focusing specifically on the teen mother population.
The students have studied the 2015 Health Report for Brownsville and have visited and analyzed the neighborhood. They have met with a leading ethnographer in race, urban life and poverty and child psychologists and clinicians working with at-risk babies and toddlers, all of this research informing their design explorations.
The students worked individually for the first half of the semester creating eleven prototypes for a Women’s Health Suite, which is one of the core facilities offered by the Neighborhood Health Action Center. These proposals were synthesized into four projects, from which, designs for their vision for the Neighborhood health hub would develop. For the second half of the semester, the students have formed a collective to develop further research and design four unique concepts for the neighborhood of Brownsville and the communities that live there.
Central to their work is the impact of the materials that surround us demonstrating how exposure to toxics directly impacts human health and researching healthier alternatives to the products that are typically specified.
The students come to the studio with a deep-seated belief that design can change lives and are committed to designing with the healthiest materials so that all aspects of design contributes positively to the communities it serves.