We recently celebrated the Chinese New Year, and here in San Francisco, the holiday draws hundreds of thousands of people to the annual parade-the largest celebration outside of Asia. One of the few remaining night-illuminated celebrations, it's an amazing experience and a great way to ring in new beginnings, of which our country has had many. In just these first few months of 2009, our country has seen a new president, a new administration, a new sense of unity sweep across our nation, a renewed energy around healthcare reform, and I hope, regardless of your politics, a new hopefulness toward our future.

This year marks the start of the Year of the Ox. Given the challenges we are facing as a nation, as an industry, and for many, as individuals, it's an auspicious coincidence. The Ox represents tenacity, perseverance, and reliability. It's thought to be the sign of prosperity and fortune for hard work. The Ox is strong, brave, and straightforward. People born under the sign of the Ox are said to be logical and systematic, but with tremendous imagination, creativity, and an unparalleled appreciation for beauty. They are said to be kind, caring souls with a logical nature and a positive outlook.

It strikes me that these are exactly the characteristics we need to have now as individuals and as an industry if we are to successfully navigate our way through these challenging times. Like the Ox, we need to be pragmatic in our analysis of situations but imaginative and creative in our approach to finding new solutions. These traits have always been important to success, but right now, their importance is magnified because there is less room for errors in judgment. Though it is important to see our current circumstances clearly and understand how any of these factors will impact our industry, it will be equally important not to operate from a place of fear, and in doing so, potentially overreact or overcompensate and make a situation worse.

From a big picture perspective, we need to remember ultimately why we do what we do. We need to stay kind and caring under immense pressures to perform, because as much as it may seem like it's all about budgets and resources, in the end, what healthcare is really about is people.

At The Center, we will continue to work to provide you with the tools you need to support your work and assist you in assessing a situation to make the best possible decisions. With the launch of EDAC, the Evidence-Based Design Accreditation and Certification program, we have developed a set of three study guides that summarize the basic building blocks of the evidence-based design process. These guides were written to be easily digestible by people with any level of experience and a diverse set of educational backgrounds. And Study Guide 1, a 171-page introduction to evidence-based design is available to you free as a download at http://www.healthdesign.org/edac. Whether you plan to one day become EDAC accredited or not, this free guide is full of invaluable knowledge.

Also available now on our Web site is a set of four free white papers, created with Georgia Tech through a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. These papers are geared toward the healthcare executive on issues ranging from the Business Case for Building Better Hospitals to Maximizing the Impact of Nursing Care Quality. Though these papers were written with the C-level professional in mind, anyone working in healthcare or healthcare design will find them useful. Also available on the same site, is a full review of the latest evidence-based design research-more than 1,200 studies that correlate the built environment to health and economic outcomes.

During these challenging times, The Center continues to stay engaged in the conversation about improving healthcare at the national level, and is working to support initiatives that shine a light on the role that the built environment can play in relieving the pressures felt by our healthcare systems. In the spirit of collaboration, and because we believe that together we can accomplish so much more than any one organization can individually, we are partnering with other like-minded organizations to help facilitate an understanding within our government about the connection between the built environment and safety, as well as economic and health outcomes. We will further our grassroots efforts to understand your evolving needs and create tools, educational offerings, and resources to support you in your daily work. We will stay informed, creative, and optimistic about the future so that we can see the new opportunities that are coming from these complicated times and not stagnate from the weight of the challenges.

So remember, especially when you are surrounded by much that seems negative and bleak, no matter what Chinese astrological sign you were born under, this is the year to find your inner Ox. HD

The Center for Health Design is located in Concord, California

For more information, visit http://www.healthdesign.org.

Healthcare Design 2009 April;9(4):8