Culture is integral to the definition, creation and measurement of health and wellbeing across diverse communities. I bring together the creative industries with health sector and government leaders to develop community-centered, culturally-responsive, design approaches to health improvement. I help to frame generative discussions and prototypes with a bias towards collective action and equity.
As cultural futurist, I work with clients to build strategies which focus on health improvement as a co-creation effort between communities and public/private health sector organizations. In this effort, language and trust are often barriers that must be overcome first, in order for progress to be made.
Co-creating work, analyzing language, building trust -- these are standard tools of many of my fellow poets, theatre companies, musicians, and other artists. I combine these creative tools with science and transform them into powerful strategies for population health and resiliency for my clients.
By deploying an asset-based, cultural change management framework to solution-finding, I assist my clients in identifying and engaging underutilized cultural assets as the foundation from which to envision, build, measure and spread the most impactful creative solutions for shifting attitudes and behaviors toward a culture of health.
Deliverables include cultural strategies, methods and communication tools designed for effectively understanding the cultural challenges at hand. I am an expert at combining culturally-based, transdisciplinary, field research with lean startup/agile development methodologies.
From low-fidelity prototypes to minimum viable solutions that teach different types of communities how to effectively combine empirical and experiential data to move from “telling their story” to the creation of a policy initiative or an investable cultural enterprise, I work with my clients to exponentially expand opportunities for health improvement and break through innovation.
Chief Imaginator + Co-Founder of IDEAS xLab (Louisville, KY). Cultural futurist, artist, poet and social entrepreneur. Former healthcare executive and champion clogger. CLICK HERE and your can hear my full artist statement on the Five Things podcast by Tara Anderson. WFPL Radio, Louisville, KY.
Co-Founder & Chief Imaginator, IDEAS xLab
Assistant Professor, Health Management & Systems Sciences, University of Louisville School of Public Health & Information Science
Cultural Innovator | TheoEdmonds.com
Born and raised in the Appalachian mountain town of Jackson, Kentucky -- same community that is the focus of NY Times Best-seller, Hillbilly Elegy -- Theo is an artist and healthcare professional who was selected as one of "50 People Changing the Face of the South" by Southern Living Magazine. His work is focused on establishing new value paradigms and mutually-beneficial relationships between cultural innovators and artists, social entrepreneurs, corporations, government and emerging philanthropic structures.
Theo is Vice Chair of Americans for the Arts' Private Sector Council, Co-Chair of the Louisville Health Advisory Board's Cultural/Social Impact Committee, lead design consultant to LGBT HealthLink’s work with the CDC to establish a national LGBT Center of Excellence model at the nexus of culture and population health and a committee member for Derby Diversity & Business Summit. He was co-leader for Louisville's successful 2016 bid to be named a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Prize winner.
Understanding Medical Mistrust in Communities of Color
IDEAS xLab intentionally crafts an approach that puts artists working together with healthcare professionals. Beginning Spring 2017, IDEAS xLab embarked on a new partnership to activate new thinking around health equity and social justice by pairing artists together with medical students at the University of Louisville in The Health and Social Justice Scholars Program. The project is focused on addressing the gaps in access to care in the Smoketown community related to medical mistrust by administering the Medical Mistrust Index (MMI) to Smoketown residents and local healthcare providers.
Project HEAL – Health Impact Assessment
Role: Primary Author
Released in fall 2017, the Health Impact Assessment (HIA) on Project HEAL (Health. Equity. Art. Learning.) was the first-of-its-kind conducted on an arts and culture focused population health program in the U.S. The Health Impact Assessment was authored by the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, IDEAS xLab, and the Commonwealth Institute of Kentucky, with additional support from the Health Impact Project - a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, with funding from the Kresge Foundation. Assessment explored how IDEAS xLab’s replicable arts and culture model provides a framework for rigorously and scientifically assessing in what ways (and why) Project HEAL’s community-wide approach may:
From 2014-present, I served as primary author for 1.3m+ in national grants received by IDEAS xLab to develop population-level health equity programs, interventions and research innovation initiatives and to develop cultural-based, health in all policies model for social, economic and environmental sustainability.
Launched Summer 2018
Grant Initiative: Project HEAL-Jackson
A partnership with City of Jackson, KY, Breathitt County School System, Breathitt County Department of Public Health, Juniper Health (Federally Qualified Health Center) and an urban-rural Kentucky network of cultural producers, including the University of Kentucky, to use arts/cultural production as a means of better understanding how to address the social determinants of health related to cancer and opioids.
Pew Charitable Trust, RWJF, Health Impact Project 2016
Grant Initiative: Project HEAL-Smoketown
The Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, is a national initiative designed to promote the use of health impact assessments (HIAs) as a decision-making tool for policymakers.
ArtPlace America, 2015
Grant Initiative: Roots & Wings
A unique, grass roots theatre project linking Appalachian, West African and urban arts in Louisville that engages young adult artists in their 20s as advocates for equitable development and reduction of violence.
National Endowment for the Arts, Our Town 2015
Grant Initiative: Project HEAL-Natchez
A partnership with City of Natchez, MS, 100 Black Women, Mississippi State Department of Health and a group of African American cultural entrepreneurs to incorporate a health in all policies approach to tourism policy in Natchez.
National Endowment for the Arts, Our Town 2014
Grant Initiative: XLerateArt
A partnership with Residency Unlimited to educate and train artists to be corporate innovation consultants and creating opportunities for artists inside corporations as innovation consultants.
ArtPlace America, 2014
Grant Initiative: Smoketown Creative Innovation Zone
A partnership with YouthBuild Louisville to educate and train artists to be civic innovation consultants and creating opportunities for artists inside a branch of a global NGO focused on creating job opportunities for at risk youth to help the NGO expand its capacity to serve more young people in Smoketown.