Marlon Williams is the Director of Cross-Agency Partnerships for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in NYC. He is an inspiring example in this role for what government can do to help communities increase health through focus, study and directing good design.

The power of data and analysis is crucial for understanding ways to best help a community. Mr Williams is a champion for this approach and through his leadership there is a wealth of information about neighborhoods in NYC that I find amazing.

Currently Neighborhoods are targeted by the department (see below). Mister Williams says, “right now there’s a lot happening in East Harlem: we’re coordinating planning resources, health programming, and a lot of existing community work to improve health, including a center that’s focused on asthma (Urban Omnibus).”

Microsoft PowerPoint - DPHO Citywide Map for website [Read-Only]

Source: http://urbanomnibus.net/2015/04/putting-health-in-all-policies/

Through data and analysis officials are able to understand what a community needs and design services to address these specific problems. I am amazed and the resources available. An amazing resource is the Environment & Health Data Portal (http://a816-dohbesp.nyc.gov/IndicatorPublic/NewQuickView.aspx), which provides very detailed reports about various health conditions in neighborhoods across the city. I found my area and downloaded two reports:

Housing and Health in Willowbrook

Asthma and the Environment in Willowbrook

It is very clear from these reports the kinds of information that is available about how health is dependent on environmental factors. This is something Mr Williams is focused on. He buckets health concerns into these main areas: food access, active living, economic development, access to health services. “Very few health outcomes actually have to do with your access to healthcare services. Much of what determines your ability to live to your fullest health potential is about the physical and social context in which you live. Issues of race, discrimination, class, and poverty all have a tremendous impact on health and create specific health inequities.”

I agree that health needs to be a complete paradigm and not focused on whether an individual has access to medical care. Sustainable design and focusing on environmental issues certainly aligns priorities with community health.

The central question is, how do you create communities where people have an attachment to each other and to the place?

I think if we can focus on that question and find some answers this will truly be sustainable design.


Urban Omnibus. “Putting Health in All Policies.” April 29, 2015.  http://urbanomnibus.net/2015/04/putting-health-in-all-policies/

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