Alexis Sidewalk Labs Landscape
Alexis Wise, director of health and human services at Sidewalk Labs

Exploring the future of care in urban communities, Sidewalk Labs style

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Emma Gordon

What will community-based care look like in decades to come? And how does technology support that vision?

In a recent blog post, Alexis Wise, director of health and human services at Sidewalk Labs explained the work the Toronto-headquartered urban innovation firm, which is being watched closely by a lot of the more progressive developers around the world, had carried out with design company Idea Couture to visualise neighbourhoods — taking the Ontario city as the starting point — where physical spaces and technology come together to support health and wellbeing.

Wise said: “We know good health is a prerequisite for a high quality of life, and our daily environments and lifestyles, including the extent to which we can easily connect with our friends and neighbours, are a major contributor to our health…..planning for health and wellbeing should be a core part of any neighbourhood development.”

Researching the future

Through analysis and conversations with the city’s residents and organisations, as well as a day-long charrette bringing together the public, non-profit and private sectors, the Care Collective was born: a concept of a health-focused community space for Toronto’s Quayside.

Physical places include gathering points; mobile health pop-ups — or ‘living well satellites’ — to take services such as digital health sessions and yoga classes where they’re needed; libraries where people can access and borrow digital resources and learn from experts; quiet “sanctuaries” for respite; and a pharmacy offering services in an informal café or lounge setting.

Complementing these spaces are the technological features of the collective — the so-called “digital spine.’ This speculative tech that would, the report says, operate on an opt-in basis to protect privacy and data.

Elements include:

  • Health concierge, a digital assistant helping people navigate health services including booking and registering for appointments. Residents can see a dashboard of personalised recommendations based on their needs, goals, interests and preferences and they can log on using personal devices, kiosks and access points around the collective
  • Living health record, is a holistic view of each person’s physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. It includes medical records as well as other information patients want to include, such as cultural sensitivities and data from wearable health monitors, nutrition logs and complementary treatments

For support, the facility could pair patients up with someone else experiencing similar health challenges through the community matching platform.

  • Community health dashboard, brings together community health information, from those who have consented, to identify emerging needs and gaps in offerings to better inform the services, events and resources needed. Information is opt-in and residents can tailor the types of information they want to share
  • Community matching platform, This matchmaking tool, amongst other features, connects people with others who are experiencing similar issues to share advice, recommend resources and services. Again, this can be accessed through personal devices and kiosks

Concluding, Wise said: “This research and public engagement work has provided Sidewalk Labs with community-driven insight that will shape our thinking as we plan neighbourhoods that improve wellbeing and foster local connection……we hope cities find the insights derived from this research valuable as they plan for their own healthy neighbourhoods of the future.”

Read the rest of Sidewalk Labs’ report

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