SUMMARY: Environmental Health Clinic (xCLINIC) designs strategies to diagnose and solve environmental issues as health issues and vice versa. With particular emphasis on low-income urban communities that face high levels of pollution and constrained access to quality nutrition, xCLINIC facilitates accessible, community-driven innovation that improves neighborhood air, water, and nutritional quality.
PROBLEM SPACE: xCLINIC was inspired by two observations. First, Hippocrates argued in “Airs, Waters, Places” that to understand disorders in any subject, the environment must be studied. “Treatment of the inner requires treatment of the outer. Second, in research over the past decade, noted epidemiologist/pediatrician Dr. Philip Landrigan has found that 80-90% of pediatrician patient time in Manhattan was spent dealing with asthma, developmental delays, rare childhood cancer, childhood obesity, and diabetes-related issues (in that order). These diagnoses all implicate the environment, making redefinition of health a social imperative. Average citizens, overwhelmed by news of large-scale global environmental threats, are often unaware of or lack access to reliable information about environmental challenges that directly affect family health. This “crisis of agency, in Natalie Jeremijenko’s term, can only be addressed meaningfully through a combination of experiential education, activated participation, and shared commitment to a civic model of environmental citizenship. xCLINIC programs model results-oriented designs, cross-species mutuality, and associated lifestyle modifications proven to benefit human and local environmental health. Aimed at the broad public, xCLINIC fosters individual scrutiny and action, radically democratizing collection, distribution and use of data, creating new democratic structures for participatory ecological design.
SOLUTION: xCLINIC is a growing, distributed network of community-rooted partners (e.g., NYC, London, Boulder, Charlottesville) that uses an integrated systems approach to health that factors in economic, social and environmental conditions, with health interventions that are designed to be participatory and community driven, framing urban residents as prime agents of their own health, rather than “recipients” of services from health care “managers.” Individual agency and the social fabric of community are core to xCLINIC programs and projects. FARMACY is a participatory urban farming platform that takes advantage of inexpensive distributed infrastructure tools–AgBags and SIGNSofLIFE–complementary products that profoundly impact barren urban environments by using existing structures to cultivate flowers that promote local air quality improvements, urban biodiversity and pollinators, and new edibles. AgBags can enable a 10-fold increase in leaf area related air quality improvements. To increase scale and impact, xCLINIC will commercialize these closed-system vertical urban agriculture platforms, standardizing and increasing production, expanding xCLINIC’s web of partners and participants, and developing mechanisms for measuring changes in air quality, and in the health and well-being of local residents.