Prabhjot Singh’s “aha” moment came in 2011 when he attended the funeral for Ray, a patient who had died in his care. Ray was a veteran of the U.S. military who had struggled for years to find work, lived with un-diagnosed diabetes and a host of chronic illnesses, and had become increasingly reclusive even as the streets of his East Harlem neighborhood became less dangerous. As he sat in the pew at Ray’s funeral, Singh—whose relationship to Ray had been typical to that of a doctor and patient and who had come to know the facts of Ray’s life through medical charts and test results—was able to understand for the first time Ray’s death in the context of his life. He witnessed the strength of the community around Ray, heard about his unique history as a military veteran, his family’s speculation that he perhaps had been illiterate, and learned more about the environmental factors that led to his declining health. Singh realized that Ray’s death had been the result of the collective failure of many systems—education, mental health, neighborhood safety, job placement, veteran support— well before Ray had been admitted to his care.
Dr. Singh had a clear understanding then that a functioning healthcare system must look beyond the walls of hospitals and clinics and into the neighborhoods— schools, offices, places of worship, parks, and homes—where the health of communities is actually determined. In his landmark book DYING AND LIVING IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD: A Street Level View of America’s Healthcare Promise, Singh urges: We must discard a “one-size-fits-all” healthcare system and instead reimagine a system in which healthcare is tailored to the needs of a community and is fully integrated and embedded in our neighborhoods.
Instead of viewing healthcare as a complicated, expensive, political quagmire designed in Washington DC and orchestrated in the halls of hospitals, what if we thought of healthcare as a collaboration between schools, places of worship, city planners, community leaders, nutritionists, fitness centers, mental health experts, and doctors? What if we utilized the latest cutting edge technologies to connect these various community institutions, provide more efficient care, and give a patient more control and accountability over their own health?
In DYING AND LIVNG IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD, Singh draws on his experience in rural sub-Saharan Africa, his research in sociology and economics, and training as a physician in East Harlem to provide a blueprint that connects the dots between communities and healthcare and introduces nationally-recognized trailblazers—doctors, administrators, community institutions, and even coders—around the country who are already successfully embedding health care in neighborhood institutions.
DYING AND LIVING IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD is a galvanizing, innovative, and grounded call to action, one that has the power to disrupt the healthcare industry as we know it and transform the health of our nation.