Meet Michael Fichman MCP Researcher & Lecturer @Upenn @WeitzmanSchool
From the PopHealth Week Archives: In this episode from November 03, 2020, PopHealth Week sits down with a talented musician, artist, academic, and urban planner Michael Fichman, an MCP Researcher and Lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design's Masters of Urban Spatial Analytics program, to explore an area that may not be traditionally top-of-mind in a conversation focused on population health. Yet, dive a little deeper into the intersection between urban planning and health, particularly mental health and culture, and there's the rich conversation to unbundle.
Gregg Masters 00:09
PopHealth Week is brought to you by Health Innovation Media. Health Innovation Media brings your brand messaging alive via original or value added digitally curated content for omni channel distribution and engagement. Connect with us at www. popupstudio.productions Welcome everyone I'm Gregg Masters Managing Director of Health Innovation Media the producer and co host of PopHealth Week and publisher of ACOwatch.com. Joining me in the virtual studio is my partner, colleague and lead co host at PopHealth Week, Fred Goldstein, President of Accountable Health, LLC, a Jacksonville, Florida based consulting firm. On today's show we explore an area they may not be traditionally top of mind and a conversation focused on population health yet dive a little deeper into the intersection between urban planning and health, particularly mental health and culture. And there's rich conversation to unbundle. Today our guest is a talented musician, artist, academic and urban planner. Michael Fichman MCP is a researcher and lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania, Stuart Weitzman School of designs Masters of Urban Spatial Analytics program. Michael is a city planner with experience in numerous forms of quantitative and qualitative research. He has consulting and research experience in geospatial analysis, predictive modeling, environmental planning, affordable housing development, transportation, economics, strategic planning and surveying. He holds a master's in city planning from Penn and his a BS in biology from Haverford College. He has done research in fields as diverse as biochemistry, workforce development, baseball statistics, plant defense, Game Theory, housing economics and the economics of curb parking. Michael spent over a year in the music industry as a performer, composer and record label executive and he is active in organizing in the nightlife community. He is also an accomplished freelance journalist Michael has written about sports, politics, food and more for the Philadelphia weekly, Vice magazine, and other outlets. So Fred, help us get to know Michael.
Fred Goldstein 02:31
Thank you so much, Greg, and Michael, welcome to pop Health Week.
Michael Fichman 02:33
Thanks. It's great to be here.
Fred Goldstein 02:34
Yeah, it's a pleasure to have you on the show. I'm really excited about this. I think it's a really interesting topic that we haven't ever delved into in the in prior shows, but obviously very important given COVID everything. So why don't we start give us a little bit of your background, the work you do and what you're working on now?
Michael Fichman 02:47
Sure. My main vocation is that I'm a lecturer and researcher and city planner at the University of Pennsylvania's Weitzman School of Design. So I do teach data analytics for city planners. And I consult the wide range of city planning topics, parks and open space, transportation, things of that nature. For much of my adult life, I was a professional musician, on the record label, professional club, DJ touring a lot and record producer. As I came to go around the world and play music and all these different cities, it piqued my interest in cities. And then I ultimately came to merge these two interests in thinking about how music arts and culture and the nighttime economy work or don't work, or governed or ill-governed in cities. And that work is coming to pretty sharp focus during the pandemic, where there's a major crisis in Creative Industries.
Fred Goldstein 03:44
Yeah. And obviously, when you think about it, one of the first places you know that we're close, we're closing the bars, we're closing the clubs, we're closing the nightlife. And that's really the area that you focus some of your work on, as you said, it's actually a fairly substantial piece of the economy, I guess.
Michael Fichman 03:58
Depending on how you want to measure things, and measuring what happens at night is not done well, very often. Because the norms of governance and the approach of economists and other people who might take stock of that stuff, they, they don't really consider the nighttime, and when they do they have sort of prohibition oriented approaches to it. And just sort of saying no to lots of stuff. So for years, I've been working in that field to try to create better approaches to governance or assemble best practices. And in the pandemic, when things are being shut down. It's sort of consistent with some of those old, prohibitive kind of norms. It's an old tale.
Fred Goldstein 04:41
Got it and I know when I first found out about what you're doing, it was through this article in one of the Penn maybe it was a Daily Penn or something like that, or one of the parents pieces that came out talking about this group that had formed trying to help to reopen nightlife and it really is, you know, as you mentioned, all the artists who suddenly are impacted and can't do their living. So what's the organization? And what sort of things are they working on?
Michael Fichman 05:06
Sure, I'm working on a project called the Global Nighttime Recovery Plan. It's based in part on a large global network of nighttime industry professionals, governance officials in cities across the globe, who are tasked with dealing with nightlife from an economic development or culture standpoint, creative individuals. And we all started speaking to one another, largely through the network of a group called Vibe Lab, which is run by my colleagues Mirik Milan, who was the former nighttime mayor of Amsterdam, which was a position he pioneered. And Lutz Leichsenring who is the spokesman for the club commission in Berlin. So I've done work with them before through Penn Praxis, which is where I work in the design school. And we're also working with some folks from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany and my calling my colleague, Andreas de Haas, from Harvard.
Fred Goldstein 06:06
And what is the nighttime Mayor? I don't know that I've ever heard of that before I'd looked at your group and seen that.
Michael Fichman 06:12
Sure. Yeah, that is a position that exists in a variety of forms that originated in in Amsterdam, where there is somebody who's essentially in charge of stakeholder engagement, dialogue, and policymaking and perhaps some over oversight of public safety and other things in regards to nighttime in the position varies, so in London, they adopted a position like this who has purview over the nighttime in general. So how the third shift nurses get to work, how are they being served by transportation options, have you know, in addition to arts and culture, bars, restaurants, etc?
Fred Goldstein 06:54
And are there positions like that in the United States?
Michael Fichman 06:57
There are they exist in a variety of forms, New York has a what they call a night czar or night mayor, depending on the city or in whose in their office of media and entertainment. There are officers in various capacities in San Francisco, Austin, Texas, Fort Lauderdale, Beato, Pittsburgh, Washington, DC. So the concept is spreading people see the value in it.
Fred Goldstein 07:21
Fantastic. So this group came together and what is it that they're trying to do?
Michael Fichman 07:25
It's largely a knowledge-sharing effort. Because especially at the beginning of the pandemic, there were emergent ideas about how you can safely conduct certain kinds of commerce and entertainment outdoors, which has become commonplace, but at the beginning, that was one that was our first chapter, where we had early experimenters in Vilnius, Lithuania, Paris, New York and other places thing, here's what we tried. Here's what worked and what didn't work. And us tried to use the network to have all these individuals who were speaking to one another, to try to disseminate best practices, but just practice it. How can one try to have the safest possible intervention and learn from what's been done so far?
Fred Goldstein 08:08
And you said that this started really by doing outdoor activities? That was it moving some of these the outdoor space?
Michael Fichman 08:14
Yes, that was our first chapter. The second one dealt largely with the new experience of cultural venues, how they're operated. What kinds of entertainment and experiences are they can purvey what their relationships and business models are with their employees in light of all the new health risks and economic pressures that people are facing?
Fred Goldstein 08:40
And when you're talking about chapters, these are the chapters within the global nighttime recovery plan that you're creating.
Michael Fichman 08:45
Yes, that's right. So we're, we're writing things on an ongoing basis, sort of, as I like to put it, we, we got a bunch of metal, and we threw it off a cliff and decided we're going to build an airplane. So far, so good.
Fred Goldstein 08:59
And so your first two chapters dealt with some early ideas around outdoor activity. And I think the second chapter was on dance floors or something like that.
Michael Fichman 09:08
Yeah, just sort of a shorthand for indoor cultural venues, nightclubs, concert venues, and so on.
Fred Goldstein 09:15
And what sort of things were they doing in those? What are some of the other countries or locations doing around indoor activities, or even I noticed someone were actually just talking about shifting spaces into completely other activities. So what sort of things were done about that?
Michael Fichman 09:29
Right. So one of the things that we have put forward as a good practice is for cities to be flexible with their licensing and use regulations related to commercial spaces and spaces that are normally used for assembly. So where I'm located in Philadelphia, you have to have you know, a permit of one kind or another to do almost anything in a commercial space. And many of these laws exist for very good health and safety reasons. In order to allow some commercial space that uses their property for assembly to transition to something that has lower assembly, but may require its own types of licenses, you know, having cities be flexible, expedite certain things, be willing to experiment so that you could say, turn a large nightclub into an art gallery for a year into a television broadcast operation into a commissary kitchen, you know, any which way but loose to really just try to get through. So that's one thing that emerged from from that chapter that I thought was especially useful.
Fred Goldstein 10:40
And so on the one hand, you have industries or big or little organizations that are changing their focus, to make use of the space. And then the other side, there were ways to continue to try to use it in the same manner, but differently, in essence by either spacing people out or moving outside. And I know there was a lot of discussion about rules and regulations about outside and how to, what I really found fascinating in reading through it was the idea in which it was made just logical sense, get everybody together, to work through how to make that space work for the group for everybody. And there, I guess there were some neat examples in there from some of the countries.
Michael Fichman 11:19
Yeah, and there's an enormous amount of difficulty in doing a really engaged in taking public goods like like a street or taking your business, which has stakeholders from, you know, the back of the house staff to independent contractors and trying to make good pluralistic decisions in a harm reduction framework. That's, that's really hard. And it takes a lot of good faith and, or good governance, depending on, you know, the situation and that stuff can be in short supply. But coming up with legitimate ways to use licensed premises, or some of these intended uses, even if it's in an altered form, we think is a good harm reduction tactic to provide an alternative to spontaneous events. People have an enormous innate human desire to socialize, we really missed each other, we've missed doing the things that make us feel human that make it feel good to be alive. And I don't think any of us and really find it in us to sit too harshly in judgment for people who really drive drive their behavior in one time or another. But if you give people alternatives to doing things in a risky manner, then it benefits everybody.
Fred Goldstein 12:36
Yeah, I think it's, as you point out, it was really clearly stated in there a couple different times, that it, it'll go underground, if you don't allow for it. And you know, we saw that decades ago with the prohibition or whatever. So it really is important to come up with ways that people can socialize in a safe manner, and do concerts. How do you see the cities or groups the United States working that versus perhaps overseas? Is there a difference? Are they more advanced or looking at it less? Is it the same? Are we handling the situations equally?
Michael Fichman 13:11
It's complicated. Certainly, there are some countries which have they, you know, given sanction to the idea that that small c culture is important to the what make their societies, and that they want to preserve certain things. And that is meant that a greater availability of subsidy for venues, dislocated workers, stuff like that, though, that drives down some risk, because also people are less economically desperate. And the United States is quite a patchwork. So I mean, there are places where I think this stuff is done well, there are places where it is not, but it's not a coherent picture. There is a bill called the Save Our Stages Act, which is part of the I think it's called the Heroes Act. But it's it's in the bill that's in front of the Senate, but the house hasn't passed. And so and there are different things going on in different state legislatures to try to direct Care's funds. So essentially, the preservation of the spaces through the pandemic will allow various experiments to continue and and allow for diminishment of risk. Because if you invest in trying to open up if you invest in bringing your employees back on payroll into bringing food into your refrigerated spaces, that's going to go bad in two weeks, that you know, you're you're putting it on faith that things are going to go okay, and that you can try this new thing out, though, you know, in many ways, it's a matter of the safety net for those places being a priority.
Gregg Masters 14:43
And if you're just tuning in to PopHealth Week, our guest is Michael Fichman MCP, researcher and lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania, Stuart Weitzman School of Designs, Masters of Urban Spatial Analytics program.
Fred Goldstein 14:59
And do you see in any of these communities? Is, are the cities or the groups that are working this? Are the healthcare? Is the health care system itself involved in any of the work with these communities? Or is that really kept separate?
Michael Fichman 15:13
You know, I'm, I'm not quite sure there have been lots of relationships that have been formed between healthcare professionals and those who deal with the technologies that go into these spaces, the ways they are designed, where either venues, you know, associations of venues, individual venues, will come up with things, states publish operations, guides, and in many cases, that's done with close in close consultation with, you know, restaurant or lodging or other types of associations in those states, in different lobbies. It's done in a patchwork manner, when it comes to social determinants of health. There are, if you look at the nighttime industries, they are rife with risk factors, it's made even more complicated, because there is a this measurement problem that I'm mentioning, there is an unseen nature to nighttime industries, where there are people who either unmeasured, or they are physically unseen, or they are, they're not on paper, anywhere, or if they are on paper from a citizenship standpoint, their relationships with their players are not codified on paper. And so this makes, and their sentiments aren't measured. So that makes it a group of people that are really difficult to reach, really difficult to reach. And I think, given the evidence I've seen about health issues, mental health issues, in these communities is a good place for there to be some bridge building.
Fred Goldstein 17:00
Yeah, I'm thinking when you think about, you know, other industries, whether it's schools or universities that have established these closer linkages to the system itself, and the healthcare system to keep up with that. And if this maybe isn't an area we've missed, and need to provide some focus on because it is a huge, you know, I love music, too. And I love getting out, I like to dance and stuff like that. It's a huge social deal and important for our mental health. And we've seen what the impact is on, on individuals, you know, as we go through this pandemic, from a mental and behavioral health way, as well as financially. So I noticed that, you know, one of the early things was providing financing to help the organizations and the, and the individuals going through this. And obviously, that depends a lot on the country's beliefs and values and economic approach. But that whole thing of being able to open up safely is something I think it's really is you're exploring it and the groups are exploring with different ideas is what's so critical is to find those unique ways where you can balance the risks and reduce the risks. And and find a way to continue having that I think back to, you know, obviously, large artists and big organizations, as mentioned here can do things that others can't, and the small artists really get hurt in the sense. But Brad Paisley, who decided, I'm going to go hit the road and do some concerts, and I'm going to rent a big field, and people are going to pull in with their cars, they're going to space apart, and we're gonna be on the stage, and we've got our masks as appropriate. And we're going to do that now he can do that and run a couple of these concerts around the country. But for the smaller local artists, you know, there's got to be a venue and I know, some are trying the technology. And you mentioned that and those approaches, but just having an opportunity for real life experience of that. It's got to be critical, I guess, for them and for the community.
Michael Fichman 18:54
Yeah, it's very difficult. There's a really big deficit in people's ability to do this in a safe venue. So a lot of people just, they're not able to do much at all. And I think it's interesting that you brought up the mental health aspect, chapter five of the Global Nighttime Recovery Plan, report support for individuals and communities. I don't think it was a secret to many of those in either nightlife or music, that there were there was an epidemic of mental health problems, beforehand placed where people do self medicating. It's a place where people are perhaps economically marginal and highly reliant on their own, shoe leather. This has been very, very hard on a lot of people and is damaged their sense of self worth, which is very wrapped up in their own career. And the digital models for either broadcasting yourself or selling music. Were not very good to begin with. And so a lot of the money in this businesses and shows and that really can't happen now. People understand that why it's dangerous to assemble people, and they don't really want to do it. And they're out there, audiences are somewhat, you know, reticent to do it as well. But we did a bunch of survey research for our fifth chapter. And a lot of people say that they either want to leave the creative businesses, a lot of people were, you know, testifying to really serious mental health issues. So I, you know, there's unless there are emergent technologies that allow for every day events to have certain kinds of rapid testing that has a high degree of, you know, the sensitivity and specificity, are optimized for these things, right. Or they have other workarounds that will allow people to do something that has some semblance of normality, it's just not going to be there for some people. And so we have to, we have to come up with other means to help.
Fred Goldstein 20:56
Absolutely, it makes a lot of sense. And I, I do think, like you said, there, as you as you begin to say, how do we alternatively do this, we maybe can't get back to 100%, we can't load the bar up like we could before, and have a dance floor where everybody's packed in. So I saw some of the examples where they were doing, you know, like dance pods, groups of individuals who hung out together, were allowed to dance in certain space, people wearing masks as appropriate in those. And I think, you know, it looked like it was outdoors as well, from what I recall and reading through it. So it looks like there are ways that we could potentially do that. And so instead of just going willy nilly, often just open everything 100%, we come up with those unique ideas that fit. And then as you said, it's unfortunate, because certain because people are are getting hurt by this, there are groups of artists in I would assume all genres, who are not able to do what they did before and and their livelihood may is seriously at risk. So we have to come up with some ways to help them obviously and reach out. Are there groups doing that? I mean, obviously, you're looking at helping groups plan to reopen? Are there groups out there trying to help these artists.
Michael Fichman 22:06
There's a very good toolkit that was put out by a group called Sound Diplomacy, which is called Cares For Music, which is the toolkit for how unspent Cares funds can be directed through Fiscal Sponsorship by foundations, from governments to artists, this has been done successfully in Oregon and some other places using this toolkit, there has been a lot of mutual aid. And I would implore people who are listening to this to see how they can make cash support to artists who enrich their lives, buying music on a platform like Bandcamp, for example, has a greater percentage of the revenue will go to the artists then streaming where they may receive a fraction of a cent for a stream, you know, as with many other things, think of an artist as being like your local restaurant that you like to patronize and you go out of your way to get, you know, your take out from them or buy a gift certificate from them is some way of sort of giving them a no interest loan. So yeah, a lot of it is about that. I think that generally emphasizing the value that you think these things have in your life in your life is paramount towards to making sure that they're when life gets back to whatever normal is later.
Fred Goldstein 23:24
Yeah, and I saw one of the other interesting points was the fact that because these big artists aren't traveling to the cities, it really is an opportunity for the local community to recognize their local artists, and perhaps feature them in certain things or, or create activities where they can continue to do their artwork locally.
Michael Fichman 23:40
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, one of the concepts that we talk about in upcoming work, where we're talking a lot about urban planning innovations for 24 hour cities is the idea of the 15 minute City, where this is talked about a lot. The mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo emphasize that this were through walking, cycling, you know, micro mobility, you have all the things you need in your life at your fingertip. And a life is not a life well lived without great art. And so we're seeing this in all of our lives. Now. We're doing a lot more things close to home, if you are doing a telecommuting thing. And so bringing your local creative neighbors into that life in your 15 minute city in your neighborhood is a great way to to enrich your life.
Fred Goldstein 24:27
Fantastic. So in a couple of minutes we have left give us a little more insight into the document you're putting together what are the pieces that are coming and and what you hope to get out of that.
Michael Fichman 24:38
This coming week. I think Monday this upcoming first week of November, the third chapter of the Global Nighttime Recovery Plan will come out that's about innovating for 24 hour cities and with with examples from all over the world, including global many places in the global south. Following that we have two chapters about financial and other work for independent businesses communities and individuals, especially those, there are many vulnerable communities, for whom nighttime and nightlife is an important social refuge. And we try to focus on those. And then we also have one about measurement. And you know, data oriented governance and decision making with regards to the pandemic, nighttime, and creative industries, which are failed, measured. And in order to track how they are recovering. One last step is to measure.
Fred Goldstein 25:29
And if people want to find this information, they can go to nighttime.org. And it's also got the Global Nighttime Recovery Plan documents up there, and you can sign up and download those as well. So really some great stuff, Michael.
Michael Fichman 25:40
Thank you very much.
Fred Goldstein 25:42
Yeah, I want to thank you so much for coming on PopHealth Week, it's really been a pleasure. And hopefully, we'll continue to see progress made and can open up some of these nighttime venues. So all of us can get out and safely absorb the arts, which we all need.
Michael Fichman 25:55
Well, I really appreciate your interest in this. And yeah, it's been wonderful speaking with you.
Fred Goldstein 26:01
Thank you so much. And back to you, Greg.
Gregg Masters 26:03
And thank you, Fred. That is the last word on today's broadcast. I want to thank Michael Fichman, researcher and lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania, Stuart Weitzman School of Designs Masters of Urban Spatial Analytics program for his time and insights today. For more information on this emerging role, particularly as a potential bridge as health systems develop their social determinants of health community outreach programs, go to www.design.upenn.edu/mUSA/about or follow them on Twitter @Weitzmanschool, that's WEITZMAN school. Also, for more information on the Cares act toolkit referred to in this conversation go to www.Sounddiplomacy.com/cares-for-music, and finally our closing appeal. Please, everyone, we can get through this pandemic only together. So do mask up when in public, practice social distancing, and pay attention to personal hygiene. We can slow the spread of this deadly virus. Bye Now.
About the Hosts
Fred Goldstein is the founder and president of Accountable Health, LLC, a healthcare consulting firm focused on population health, health system redesign, new technologies and analytics. He has over 30 years of experience in population health, disease management, HMO and hospital operations. Fred is an Instructor at the John D. Bower School of Population Health at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and the editorial Board of the journal Population Health Management.
Gregg is a seasoned senior healthcare executive, having provided leadership and consulting support for hospitals, health systems, capitated medical groups, IPAs, PHOs, MSOs, and several hospital/physician managed care joint ventures. He is Founder & Managing Director at Health Innovation Media, the publisher of ACOwatch.com, and is consistently recognized by his peers as a thought leader in healthcare social media via @GreggMastersMPH.