Theodore Edmonds, director of the CFCP
Theodore Edmonds, director of the CFCP

In America, more than 80% of healthcare expenditure can be directly linked to preventable diseases like depression, but the University of Louisville’s Center for Creative Placehealing is taking steps to ensure that workplace stresses are less of a factor.

The Center for Creative Placehealing – which operates in partnership with many outside supporters including government agencies, philanthropic foundations and healthcare providers – aims to grow businesses by bettering the well-being of employees. The first step? Changing the culture of the workplace.

“There’s a lot of businesses and corporations these days that are implementing what they call culture directors, chief culture officers, who look at the culture of a workplace. [Creative placehealing] functions like that,” said Theodore Edmonds, director of the CFCP. “What we’re interested in is how this culture – the good and the bad – impacts health and how can we engage that culture.”

For instance, if you’re an employee of a company, you’re not just an employee of a company. You could be an employee of a company who’s a woman, who’s also a member of the LGBT community, who’s also a member of the Latinx community.

“In a world of complex identity structures, all of those different identities also come with their own cultural norms, so we try to decipher those as an asset that can be built from,” Edmonds said. 

The theory is that businesses only stand to benefit by working to understand their employees, since not only does a culture of acceptance promote innovation, but also lowers healthcare costs.

“In this part of the country, nearly 80% of LGBT employees do not feel safe coming out at work,” said Edmonds. “If you look at a national number, 71% of African Americans believe they have less economic opportunity simply because they are African American. If we’re asking people to think and to innovate but we’re only allowing them to show up as a piece of themselves because you have to look this way, you have your hair this way, you can’t talk this way – that’s really an innovation problem. If you’re only bringing a piece of yourself to work, you’re not going to be able to think in ways that could lead to solutions.”

The Center For Creative Placehealing, though having only been in operation since January, is already making an impact in the world of research. In partnership with the Louisville Metro Government and the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the center will lead the “Cultural WellBeing 2020 Initiative,” making Louisville the first city in the country to scientifically measure corporate inclusion using primarily health research.

“If you can measure it, you can do something about it,” Edmonds said. 

Edmonds is also an assistant professor at UofL’s School of Public Health and Information Sciences, principal investigator for UofL’s Center for Health Organization Transformation, and co-founder of Louisville’s IDEAS xLab. Edmonds wrote a four-article series for ArtPlace America that was published online. The ArtPlace 2019 Annual Summit took place in May 20-22.

“Our theory of change is this: in our economy, businesses and organizations and companies have a role in shaping the culture in the workplace. Culture, in turn, shapes the well-being of employees and communities, and well-being drives inclusion and innovation,” Edmonds said. “Right now, if you think about it, you hear the phrase ‘cultural competence’ thrown around a lot. Cultural competence suggests that you can go to one training and you got it – it’s a one and done thing. What we talk about is being culturally responsive. Does your organization, does your entrepreneurial network, have practices that are culturally responsive in a way that understands and engages these complex identity structures on an ongoing basis?”

More information about the Center For Creative Placehealing is available online