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Thomas Scattergood Behavioral Health Foundation Funds Drexel Design and Public Health Students to Collaborate on Solutions for Local Behavioral Health and Housing Insecurity Issues

Urban Design and Health seminar students meet with community leaders

4/19/2017 3:10:51 PM

Local community organizations were in the URBN Center last week, meeting with students in Drexel’s Urban Design and Health seminar and helping to frame some of the most pressing issues related to behavioral health and housing insecurity in our communities. 

A new three-year grant from the Scattergood Foundation will transform this annual Design and Health course into the centerpiece of a yearlong health and design research process, in which students and faculty will work to create, prototype and present solutions that can be brought forward and developed in the real world. 

Following presentations from the community groups, interdisciplinary teams of students from the Dornsife School of Public Health and Westphal College of Media Arts & Design will select an issue of focus. The students will spend spring quarter applying human centered design approaches to these real-world scenarios, working throughout the quarter to design and pilot solutions for some “really thorny" public health problems specific to behavioral health. After class concludes, funding will be available to support some students to continue to develop projects over the summer. In the fall, the program will host a public event to present some of the work as well as information on the importance of human centered design and behavioral health.

“Both design and public health disciplines have acknowledged that the complexity of these problems call for new solutions beyond what one discipline may produce” says co-instructor Yvonne L. Michael ScD, SM, associate professor of Epidemiology and associate dean for Academic and Faculty Affairs at the Dornsife School of Public Health.

With this Scattergood support, the Drexel Urban Design & Health team will be able to continue training students inter-professionally, to ensure they learn skills for human centered design, trauma-informed design, and understanding the social determinants of health. In addition, it will support the Scattergood Foundation’s efforts to build capacity and bring design thinking to approach behavioral health problems. 

The Scattergood Foundation has played an integral role in bringing design thinking practices and opportunities to Drexel University over the last six years and will continue to support the work beyond the grant. The Foundation has helped to connect community groups to the class and will help review student projects later this quarter.

The Health and Design seminar, co-taught by Michael and D.S. Nicholas, RA, AIA, NCARB, assistant professor of Architecture, Design & Urbanism in the Westphal School of Media Arts & Design, was first held last year. 

Students in last year’s class reported that collaboration with other disciplines gave them a wider perspective and provided insight into new possibilities, according to a recent paper published in The Plan Journal

Drexel University is one of 11 inaugural members of the American Institute of Architects (AIA)’s Design and Health Research Consortium, which helps translate research on design’s influence on public health into architectural practice for policymakers, design and public health professionals and the general public. Michael and Nicholas are part of the leadership team for the Center for Health and the Designed Environment, Drexel’s AIA Design and Health team.