Transforming Shipping Containers into Chronic Care Clinics

Sandy Bay, Hanover Parish, Jamaica

In Sandy Bay, Jamaica, the first in a series of health clinic prototypes was built by modifying a shipping container. This project was designed to deliver telemedical services with a focus on eye care and is part of a broader research effort at the University of Michigan to bring technology-enabled chronic health care monitoring to remote and underserved populations globally.

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Funding Sources

$400,000 – U-M Third Century Global Challenges Initiative

About the Project

CommonHealth+ at Sandy Bay Jamaica is the first in a series of health clinic prototypes, where ISO shipping containers are modified and designed to deliver telemedical services with a focus on eye care.

In partnership with the Kellogg Eye Center, Eye Health Institute (EHI), and the Jamaican Ministry of Health, the first CommonHealth+ prototype was developed, prefabricated, and shipped to Jamaica in the spring of 2016, where it is now operated by EHI in partnership with local authorities. The work is part of a broader research effort at the University of Michigan, entitled Deep Monitoring which, with support from the Provost’s Third Century Global Challenges initiative, aims to deliver technology- enabled health monitoring for chronic health care issues to remote and underserved populations globally.

As part of this effort, the design team was tasked with developing a strategy for the repurposing of industrial shipping containers to produce that spatial framework within which chronic care solutions would be delivered. While the larger design research project includes a range of clinic types, functionalities, and scales of operation, the first prototype consisted of a single 20’x8’ container housing a refraction office and lens grinding facility, intended to enhance care options already being delivered in less formal clinic settings by EHI during the past 20 years. The unit is insulated, climate controlled, and dehumidified to address not only comfort, but also issues of technical equipment lifespan in humid tropical locations. A generous shaded porch area serves as a waiting ‘room’, and solar PV modules are grid-tied to power operations and produce a modest income stream during periods of low energy demand.

A key idea within the CommonHealth+ program is to structure each clinic in such a way as to produce models of public space, and support community activities. In the case of this prototype, the porch provides an internet hotspot and provides a framework for video projections, programmed variously to support health-related learning, and collective leisure activities.

Prefabrication of the units was undertaken by subcontractors in Illinois and Michigan, and assembled for shipping along with an extensive load of medical equipment, supplies and flat-packed interior fittings in Ann Arbor. When ready, the unit entered the global logistics chain and was shipped to port in Kingston, JM. A team of local contractors assembled the structure within four days, at which point it was ready for operations by visiting medical teams from both EHI and local care-givers.

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