Health Ecologies Lab

A lab focusing on the impact of social systems on the health of individuals and communities


Fields of Knowledge
  • Design
  • Health / Sustainability
  • Politics / Economics
  • Social Justice

Organizing Institutions

Slought, Penn Social Policy & Practice

Contributing Institutions

Center for Digital Health, Penn Medicine

Opens to public



4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

On the web

Contact info

Slought and Penn Social Policy and Practice are pleased to announce the Health Ecologies Lab. Comprised of a group of scholars united around research, projects, and curricula, the lab will focus on diverse social and environmental factors affecting health and well-being. It will think critically about health as it is understood across disciplines, institutions, and social systems in order to envision a new ecology of health.

Traditional understandings of health and well-being often isolate individual histories from their social life, such as their relationship to families, communities, and geographies. Recent public health and environmental crises involving lack of access to healthy food, clean water, and economic and educational opportunity demonstrate how health is also impacted by disparities. The scale and complexity of health care in the 21st century further exacerbates these inequalities, motivating us to rethink health and well-being through acts of listening and care.

The lab is committed to learning from the knowledge embedded in the lived experiences of communities in Philadelphia and beyond. It also seeks to bring scholars from various disciplines together and welcome multiple voices, from patients and caregivers, to providers and policymakers. Collaborative projects aim to leverage this collective knowledge to empower individuals to live healthy lives, and to compel institutions and structures to respond and engage.

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The lab values listening as a way of understanding the larger social systems that affect health and well-being. We seek to redefine listening as a responsive activity that values the knowledge embedded in communities. Moving beyond gesture, we focus on listening as a deliberative practice, one that structures our identities and activities. Help us engage the individuals, institutions, and communities you value.

We also seek to develop a shared vocabulary about health and to encourage space within the university for critical thought and reflection with students and scholars from the humanities, social policy and medicine. What can medicine and its understanding of health learn from social policy and the humanities? How are acts of care understood and enacted across disciplines and institutions? Join a conversation, reading group, or course at the University of Pennsylvania.

We are committed to engaging students, faculty, and community as partners in the design of projects, publications and events. Our collaborative working environment affirms the power of dialogue, and encourages participants to transform ideas into action. In so doing, we recognize the value of listening, learning, and ideation to meaningfully impact health and well-being. Workshop your ideas with us and collaborate on a public initiative.

"We are challenged to listen to people—their self-understandings, their storytelling, their own concept work—more as readers and writers than diagnosticians or theorists, with deliberate openness to life in all its refractions."

— João Biehl, Anthropologist, Princeton University

"The rhetorics of health and illness become effective ways of policing the boundaries of civil society, and of keeping people always outside."

— Jonathan M. Metzl, Psychiatrist, Vanderbilt University

Related Projects

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Related Programs

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