The WELL Community concept aims to support access to essential healthcare, workplace health promotion and accommodations for new parents while establishing an inclusive, integrated community through social equity, civic engagement and accessible design.
Communities are characterized by groups of people with diverse characteristics who are linked by social ties, share common perspectives and engage in joint action and experiences in shared settings or locations. Within every built space there exists a unique community, one where people live, age, work, socialize, play and learn. These communities develop social networks, cultural norms and organizational structures. The global, national and local conditions that surround an individual are known as the social determinants of health, which include physical determinants, or the physical and built conditions that impact the health of an individual.[2,3] Addressing these determinants of health can have a profound influence on the health and well-being of not just individuals but also communities at large. This includes addressing health disparities, which are the differences in health status between population groups resulting from unequal distribution of power and resources as a function of gender, race, ethnicity or socio-economic status. Designing built spaces in a way that enables all individuals to access, participate and thrive within the systems and structures of each community is essential to shaping individual and collective health outcomes.
Supporting the health and well-being of the community in a building must begin with addressing the fundamental factors that influence health and well-being, such as access to health services, protection and promotion of health and equitable spaces and employment conditions. Individuals who have a reliable source of healthcare experience better health outcomes, fewer health disparities and lower overall healthcare costs. Yet many people around the world still struggle with access to basic health services, and access varies based on race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age, sex, disability status, sexual orientation, gender identity and residential location. Much of the global population also lacks sufficient health knowledge and skills, leading to lower health literacy, which contributes to greater health disparities.[5,6] Moreover, though support systems for caregivers—such as adequate paid parental leave, breastfeeding support and policies to support eldercare—also form a key pillar of inclusive environments, these services are not universally provided.[7,8]
Workplaces have the potential to promote health and encourage healthy behaviors through policies and programs. Successful workplace health promotion programs can improve job satisfaction, sense of well-being, self-esteem and overall health status, while also reducing health risks.[12,13] Organizational benefits include lower healthcare costs and absenteeism and improved productivity, recruitment, retention, culture and employee morale. [12,13] For example, immunization programs can minimize health costs and productivity loss caused by seasonal influenza and other vaccine-preventable diseases. Health risk assessments combined with education can lower medical claims costs, reduce absenteeism and enhance productivity. Furthermore, supporting working caregivers through offerings like flexible scheduling, child- and eldercare support, and spaces for breastfeeding can provide numerous benefits. Paid parental leave, for example, is associated with higher rates of breastfeeding, long-term achievement for children, reduced infant mortality and maternal postpartum depression and decreased risk of low birthweight infants.[16,17,18,19,20,21] Companies that foster civic engagement can help increase employee attraction and retention while enabling individuals to make positive contributions in their local community.
In addition to policies and programs that support healthy, equitable environments, it is key for project teams to consider design approaches that address the physical determinants of health and well-being by making buildings inclusive, accessible and safe for all. Accessible spaces are not just compliant with code but also incorporate universal designprinciples that support diverse ability and mobility and encourage people of all backgrounds to use a space.
WELL implements strategies that address public health issues through a social determinants framework, focusing on the social components that drive and shape health to form built spaces that truly create a foundation for equitable, inclusive and healthy environments.
Facilitate a collaborative development process and ensure adherence to collective wellness goals.
Support the overall health and well-being of individuals and their families by adopting comprehensive health policies.
Provide buildings that are accessible, comfortable and usable by people of all backgrounds and abilities.
Provide bathrooms that support the needs of all individuals.
Provide public spaces, amenities and programming for community members to gather, socialize and collaborate.