Traditionally when people have thought of a healthcare facility, they’ve envisioned an uninviting environment where you go when you’re sick. But health facilities are working hard to change that image as they promote healthy lifestyles.

Today, health systems are beginning to focus more on becoming wellness destinations—convenient places that the public wants to visit to proactively manage their health.

While traditional hospital services such as the emergency department, imaging, surgery, and medical offices are still necessary, the wellness component spans a healthcare campus to include numerous functions that focus on healthy living and community activities.

At the same location where your physician talks to you about losing weight or watching your cholesterol, there might be healthy eating and cooking classes offered in an educational kitchen. Or there could be a fitness center on-site, adjacent to where you had physical therapy for your sports injury, to keep those muscles strong and avoid further injury. This could all take place as your children are having swim team practice at the recreation and therapy pool across the hall.

Other opportunities to provide wellness activities include having a walking path around a campus. This can be used by staff at lunch, as part of an organized walking program for the community, or as an opportunity for family members to exercise while waiting for someone in surgery—all while providing an opportunity to get fresh air, reduce stress, and promote a healthy lifestyle.

Multipurpose rooms can be used for education, yoga, or vaccination programs, or rented out for community meetings. A gymnasium can be used for exercise classes, self-defense training, or by the community for basketball or volleyball. These dual-use spaces provide flexibility and allow the community to view the destination as a place to go to keep healthy, not because they’re sick.

Offering the opportunity and convenience for the public to visit one facility for their health and wellness programs helps forge a connection with the community and brings the total continuum of health and wellness together, providing a more comfortable environment where people are willing to visit and trust they’ll be receiving quality care.

Deborah Smith, AIA, ACHA, LEED AP BD+C, is a healthcare planner/architect at Flad Architects (Tampa, Fla.). She is a member of the AIA Academy of Architecture for Health, a Knowledge Community of the American Institute of Architects, and serves on the organization’s communications committee. She can be reached at