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Several of the world’s greatest challenges have been solved with design thinking, and the COVID-19 crisis is no different. When faced with challenges like this moment, designers are trained to pave an optimistic, resilient, equitable path forward that prioritizes everyone’s well-being. The key to ensuring healthy places and spaces for underserved and vulnerable communities is to create wellness design services that support everyone’s well-being.

As designers, we are responsible for safeguarding the health, safety, and welfare of all citizens, regardless of their socioeconomic status, so we must ensure the lead designers and planners of these projects represent these same groups. We can provide wellness design services spaces with the needs of all users in mind by bringing together diverse teams of designers with a wide range of experiences, considerations, and voices.

A better way to include and protect communities at risk through wellness design

We must create more equitable, accessible spaces for disenfranchised and underserved communities to enhance wellness for the future and focus on wellness projects designed specifically for BIPOCs and minorities. Cities must collectively consider the trifecta effect of economics, governance, and health to advance wellness across sectors and communities, considering all people’s stressors and mental, physical, and emotional health. As a result of the pandemic, we have been reminded of the inequities we face every day and the apparent service gaps that exist across minority communities. Safety, accessibility, and responsive action by city and municipal leadership have been significant contributors to satisfaction with the built environment’s health and wellness.

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Minority communities, particularly Black and Brown people, are disproportionately affected by the current pandemic. Several studies have shown that the extensive hardscape, coarse landscaping, and vegetation found in urban environments are also among those most adversely affected by global warming and its heat island effect. To address today’s challenges, how can urban design evolve to protect at-risk communities, improve access to services, close gaps in services, and promote well-being, health, and sustainability?

An approach to community-centered wellness creates economic boosters in areas that need healthcare access the most, as well as deep-seated wellness changes backed by education and access to health-oriented resources. In turn, this can provide new career opportunities and job opportunities in healthcare, technology, and design, enhancing livability and sustained growth without changing or gentrifying the neighborhoods that make our cities vibrant and diverse.