CoLab Philadelphia: Bringing Health Beyond the Walls

September 27, 2019 | DesignPhiladelphia, 2019 Festival

CoLab Philadelphia spreading ‘Joy’ in Kensington

The premise behind CoLab Philadelphia is to bring health beyond the walls of the hospital and into the communities of Philadelphia that need it most. Through programming and activations centered out of a remodeled 1960’s Airstream trailer, the #CoLabPHL team aims to engage with community members where they live, promoting health and well-being, providing medical screenings, and connecting residents to resources and education. CoLab was born out of a desire to help support healthy communities in a new and exciting way, leveraging public spaces to bring resources and activities that promote health in the broadest sense. CoLab Philadelphia is a program anchored out of the Health Design Lab at Thomas Jefferson University.


In its first deployments, CoLab has been focusing on the community of Kensington, supporting events in spaces such as McPherson Square Park. The trailer exists as a robust and flexible outdoor platform, and activations have ranged from medical screening for high blood pressure and HIV to family-friendly activities such as storytime for kids and nutrition demonstrations for adults. In each deployment we partner with local community organizations such as Esperanza Health Center, Impact Services Corporation, and New Kensington CDC.

CoLab Philadelphia is more than just a trailer — it is also a team dedicated to supporting new and impactful collaborations. This summer, the Jefferson based team partnered with Sunday Suppers and Esperanza Health Center to develop a new program titled Recipe for Health. This 6-week long pilot initiative aims to educate Kensington families on the importance of healthy cooking and eating while reinstituting the forgotten importance of the family meal. The goal is to empower families to create lasting behavioral changes and ultimately improve their overall health. Moving forward, the goal is to continue to scale this model and bring these programs to more neighborhoods in Philadelphia and beyond.


The CoLab Philadelphia Airstream trailer design was made possible in part by the Community Design Collaborative and a pro-bono design team including representatives of the Jefferson Health Design Lab, Impact Services Corporation, New Kensington CDC, KieranTimberlake, Ballinger, and Cohere in collaboration with community members. This one-of-a-kind custom vehicle was designed with the purpose of being flexible to the needs of the community, bringing excitement to the topics of health and community building. The mechanical construction was undertaken by P&S Trailers in Helena, OH and the interior fit out by FKB in Philadelphia, PA. CoLab Philadelphia has been supported by grants from TD Charitable Foundation and the American Heart Association: Urban Health Accelerator.


The original CoLab Philadelphia “Peer Garden” concept by the Community Design Collaborative

CoLab Philadelphia at The Oval

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