Is your community a healthy place to live? Half of Americans surveyed give their city a grade of “C” or lower.
However, 94 percent of them are willing to do something to make their communities healthier places to live, work, learn and play. That’s music to the ears of Garth Graham, M.D., MPH, head of the Aetna Foundation, the survey sponsor.
The Foundation recently joined other organizations to issue the Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge. The Challenge is a partnership between the Aetna Foundation, the American Public Health Association and the National Association of Counties. The community health program will reward small to mid-size cities, counties and federally recognized tribes that show progress in making their communities healthier places to live.
Health is much more than the absence of disease, the World Health Organization says. It’s the presence of complete mental, physical and social well-being. Americans are starting to understand that. One-third of those surveyed agree that cost of living, access to health services and nutritious food, and the amount of crime and violence have a large effect on individual and community health.
“We know that health is created beyond the doctor’s office. In order to see the full picture of community health we have to consider the social and physical environment,” Graham says. “That’s things like access to healthy foods, a walkable or bikeable environment and a safe, affordable place to live.”
We all have a role to play when it comes to improving health and wellness at a community level, Graham says. “Individuals making changes on their own block, within their own circle of friends and neighbors, make a vital difference every day in communities across the country.” The Aetna Foundation has long supported local groups working to make their communities better places to live through programs such as community gardens, farmer’s markets and more.
“However, to tackle the toughest problems, those that affect entire cities and counties, we need organizations to break down silos, reach across the community and work together,” Graham said. “No single group can make sufficient changes alone, but when organizations work together across silos, they can break down barriers to change.”
Make yours a healthy community
Learn more about how your city, county or federally recognized tribe can get involved by visiting www.HealthiestCities.org.