Washington, DC has been recognized by CityHealth, a project of the de Beaumont Foundation, as a leading city for policies that improve the health and well-being of its residents. The assessment is the culmination of a two-year analysis of how the 40 largest US cities fare across nine policy areas that help residents live healthier lives and enable communities to thrive.
“Washington, DC is a leader for inclusive prosperity because we remain committed to ensuring that residents from every part of our city and from all backgrounds benefit from our city’s growth,” said Mayor Bowser. “Part of being an inclusive city means giving all residents the ability to lead healthy and productive lives. When multiple agencies come together to promote policies that build stronger and healthier communities, as this assessment shows we are doing, our city becomes a better place for all residents to live, work and play.”
Based on the number and strength of their policies, cities were eligible to receive a gold, silver, or bronze medal. Of the 40 cities, five received gold medals, six received silver medals, eight received bronze medals, and 21 did not have enough strong policies to warrant a medal. Washington, DC was awarded a gold medal.
“These ratings demonstrate the District’s commitment to health while looking beyond just healthcare and health behaviors to ensure every resident has the opportunity to reach their optimal health,” said Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, Director of the District of Columbia Department of Health. “The CityHealth rating shows us how we measure up to other cities across the country, where we’re excelling, and where we can make strides to improve the health of our communities.”
The nine policy areas are listed below, and details on how Washington, DC was rated in each area can be found at www.cityhealth.org/city/Washington.
Affordable Housing and Inclusionary Zoning
Stable, safe, healthy, and affordable living conditions benefit everyone, and are crucial to children’s lifelong achievement. Affordable housing promotes diverse, inclusive neighborhoods and positive mental health, reduces crowding and exposure to environmental hazards, and frees up resources to pay for health care and healthy food.
We all need safe, convenient ways to get around our communities – whether that is getting to work, getting children to school, or enjoying recreation and active living. Complete streets policies harmonize safety with the needs of all forms of transportation including walking, biking, driving, and taking the bus. These policies expand economic growth, improve health, and can save lives.
Universal, High-Quality Pre-Kindergarten
Done right, all children benefit from early childhood education, regardless of family income or zip code. Access to high-quality pre-k benefits children and their communities throughout the course of their entire lives – it raises children’s lifetime wages, high-school graduation rates and years of education completed, reduces crime and teen pregnancy, and improves health outcomes.
Paid Sick Days
No one should have to choose between caring for themselves or sick family members and paying their bills. Paid sick policies reduce the spread of contagious illnesses, increase employment and income stability, and save cities money in health care costs.
Alcohol Sales Zoning
We all want our neighborhoods to be safe places to live, work, and raise families. Neighborhoods with high concentrations of alcohol outlets are linked to more drinking and higher rates of violence and driving under the influence. Policies that address a high density of alcohol outlets can reduce crime, increase safety and reduce spending on health care and criminal justice costs.
Food Safety and Restaurant Inspection Ratings
Nearly half of money spent on food is in restaurants. Consumers should be empowered to make informed decisions before entering a restaurant to reduce their risk of foodborne illness. Policies that require food establishments to publicly post food safety inspection grades empower consumers, reduce foodborne illness, and create savings on health care costs.
Healthy Food Procurement
Everyone benefits from access to high quality, affordable food options. Our health is heavily influenced by what we eat, and what we eat is heavily influenced by the quality, variety, and cost of food served in our workplaces, schools, and other community institutions. Policies that ensure food sold and served in city buildings meets basic nutritional standards can provide more residents with affordable and healthy food choices and reduce some of the high medical costs associated with obesity.
Preventing tobacco use has already had a dramatic effect on our country, yet smoking tobacco remains the single most preventable cause of death and disease. Policies that raise the minimum legal age for the sale of tobacco products to 21 reduce the number of young people using these products, greatly reducing their risk for addiction and disease.
Clean Indoor Air
Everyone should have access to clean air. These policies protect non-smokers from the harmful effects of tobacco – which is the largest preventable cause of death – and they reduce smokers’ consumption of tobacco at the same time.
CityHealth will update its ratings again in three years. In the meantime, new resources from the de Beaumont Foundation will provide technical assistance and support to cities as they advance policies with the goal of creating healthier lives, stronger communities, and cities that people are proud to call home. For more details on how Washington, DC stacked up against other cities, visit the CityHealth website: www.cityhealth.org.