Professor in Residence, Department of Architecture, GSD, Harvard University, Cambridge MA, USA
This paper addresses an important and timely question: How can disadvantaged communities of color become healthier? To address the question, we built on an interdisciplinary body of literature in public health and healthy community design to develop an integrative framework utilizing a variety of social capital. Community engagement and intermediaries played a critical role in constructing and facilitating the integrative framework that we applied across the study community. This study used a case study methodology reinforced by the relevant literature, participatory action research, interviews, surveys, and evaluations. The outcomes of the project suggest that the integrative framework that we built, which focuses on social capital, could provide an effective way to promote better health in disadvantaged communities. To make the framework more impactful, however, community engagement, partnerships with grassroots community organizations, a democratic design process, and the role of designers as facilitators are essential. The study’s outcomes may be useful in addressing some COVID-19 related challenges facing marginalized communities, such as lack of access to green and open space that could help residents build social capital and improve their health.