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Institute for the Future report forecasts the rise of "therapeutic cities"

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Marred by traffic, pollution and overcrowding, cities often appear to be at odds with promoting a healthy lifestyle. But over the next decade, emerging technologies could help revitalize urban communities and position them as the focal point of numerous strategies for improving health care, according to a report released yesterday from the Institute for the Future's Health Horizon's Program.

The report (.pdf) examines how technological innovations, the proliferation of personal health data and advances in health-care delivery will shape the global health economy over the next ten years. Among the forecasts is the development of "therapeutic cities," where infrastructure, services and communities will support the public in making healthier decisions and foster biomedical research:

Cities are once again becoming key sites for both crisis and innovation in health and health care, highlighted by unique urban health challenges and innovative public health responses that we can see today... A new technological framework that will enable us to map the linkages between places and public health, creating a holistic view of the “therapeutic city,” will support this renewed focus on urban health. New systems of infrastructures, communities, and services will emerge to promote healthy and sustainable living. New technologies will vastly expand our ability to measure, visualize, and act on complex urban systems in real time. Mobile health devices and services will blur the line between environmental sensing and health sensing, and mass use of mobile devices will blur the line between individual health and public health while utterly trans- forming our models of urban populations.

Photo by Robert Ashworth

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