From: Lauren Britt
I am an undergrad at Indiana University majoring in health care management and policy and am interning for Columbus Regional Health’s Healthy Communities Initiative this summer. Recently, I heard the city engineer refer to potential improvements on Westenedge Drive as “treatment.” As a college student learning about United States health care, “treatment,” to me, means a prescribed medical plan of action for patients, not infrastructure development within a city.
It took time for me to realize that the city engineer is essentially doing for Columbus exactly what a physician does for his patients. The engineer identified a problem within Columbus (his “patient”) that puts public safety (its “health”) at risk. Just like a physician, the engineer has to select the smartest form of treatment that will yield desirable results for an identified problem. The difference is that the engineer’s treatment options include sidewalks, bike infrastructure and traffic-calming techniques, not antibiotics or medical procedures.
I was able to understand the goal of one of the current street redesign projects, Westenedge Drive, with more clarity after this realization. I began thinking about how the two different interpretations of “treatment” may relate to one another: in terms of city infrastructure redesign vs. a physician’s plan of action for a patient.
Infrastructure treatment improves Columbus and the health of its citizens. Keeping the Westenedge Drive example consistent, consider how the engineer’s proposed installation of sidewalk, People Trail, street trees, median islands and traffic circles will keep pedestrians safe and, therefore, healthy, as would a physician.
By redesigning the roads in Columbus to consider all user groups, drivers will be forced to slow down and pay more attention. This will create a safer and more comfortable environment for people to walk, bike and be more physically active, which, in turn, will create a healthier population. The difference between the treatment options for a city versus the treatment plan for a patient is that a city engineer’s intentions are preventive, whereas United States health care strategies tend to be more reactive.
In conclusion, at first I felt conflicted when I heard my city engineer talking about what methods of “treatment” will be the most effective for a road in Columbus. I had to learn to understand that the point of any treatment, for people or for city infrastructure, is to fix an identified problem, and that the plans for Westenedge Drive will improve public health in Columbus. And public health protects the health of individuals who live here.