Dawn Emerick, President and CEO of the Health Planning Council of Northeast Florida, writes a guest column for MetroJacksonville.com about the need to discuss and include how all policies impact the health of a community. With the goal to bring awareness to the relationship between health outcomes and healthy community design the Community First Hale & Hearty 7k is this Saturday.
There is increasing acknowledgment that many health issues such as health disparities and preventive health care are profoundly influenced by factors outside the traditional realm of health and health care. Factors such as literacy, poverty, employment, crime, and racism contribute to disparities in life expectancy as well as to health-related quality of life. Concerns about how to address these factors have led to a focus on a “health in all policies” approach in which policies in non-traditional sectors such as transportation, housing, employment, economic development and agriculture ideally would contribute to health and health equity. For example, although air pollution and injury prevention are often considered in major transportation projects, the influence of road design on physical activity and obesity is not. A qualified health impact assessment that recommends the addition of pedestrian and bicycle facilities (“complete streets”) to a transportation plan would contribute to a built environment that promotes the public’s health.
The agriculture sector seeks to maximize productivity, meet consumer demand, and sustain livelihoods. From a health perspective, agricultural policy determines food quantity, quality, and prices that directly affect consumption patterns and therefore affect health. Health impact assessments could be used to examine the health effects of proposed food policies, such as ones that enhance production of energy-dense, nutrient- poor foods that contribute to the increasing obesity epidemic. HIAs of proposed zoning plans, which would contribute to decreased density of fast-food and liquor stores or increased density of restaurants and full-service grocery stores, especially in low-income areas, could result in changes that better promote health. Finally, a HIA that recommends including healthy design standards in economic development RFI’s would contribute to redevelopment that would be strongly associated with improving health outcomes and closing the heath disparity gap.
This coming Saturday, June 1, 2013, the Health Planning Council of Northeast Florida will host our 2nd Annual Community First Hale & Hearty 7K-RIVERSIDE/AVONDALE. This race is a celebration of the Riverside community whose leaders and residents developed a vision years ago to connect the relationships between economic, social, and political factors with health and mental well-being status. Ultimately, this forward thinking strategy has improved the quality of a healthy life of its residents. Community First Hale & Hearty 7K is not just another run on the First Coast; it’s also a catalyst to raise awareness of the relationship between health outcomes and healthy community design and to encourage residents, decisions-makers and businesses to embrace a “Health in All Policies” approach when making redevelopment decisions.
Why a 7K race? The Health Planning Council chose a 7K (4.37m) distance to separate our race from the other more common distances such as 5K and 10K races. More importantly, we chose a 7K distance to align the number 7 with the number of counties we serve in the region and with the 7 qualities that describe healthy designed and sustainable communities.
Riverside has gained national and international recognition as a great place to live. With its distinctive mix of history, culture, character and community, the neighborhood exemplifies gracious urban living and walkability (WalkScore of 74). In 2010, Riverside was honored by the American Planning Association (APA) as one of the country’s 10 Great Neighborhoods under the APA’s Great Places in America program. Riverside is the first neighborhood in Florida to receive this prestigious national recognition.