Such communities help people to support one another in aspects of daily life and to develop to their fullest potential. Happy and Healthy Places are those designed and built to improve the quality of a healthy life for all people. They also provide easy access and connectivity to other communities—places where every person is free to make choices amid a variety of healthy, available, accessible, and affordable options
Reframing the Economic Imperative
It is true that Northeast Florida is home to an impressive health care system, several research institutions and a vibrant healthcare industry that is the envy of many communities. Not only do these fine organizations save and enhance the lives of thousands of people every day, they employ over 95,000 Northeast Florida residents and create an economic impact of over $25 billions dollars annually (The Center for Global Health and Medical Diplomacy). But, despite their enormous contributions to the economic vitality of our region, a robust health care industry does not correlate to improved health outcomes, health status and the quality of a healthy life within the borders of our communities. Attempting to improve the health of a community via “treating the disease” is costly, short sighted, ineffective and fruitless; promoting prevention and wellness via healthy community design is not only effective in combatting chronic diseases, but cities like Oklahoma City, Denver, Nashville, and Charlotte, who have chosen to invest in constructing hundreds of miles of sidewalks and bicycle friendly roads, are seeing an economic renaissance resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars being placed directly back into the local economy.
Every resident in Northeast Florida should be able to make choices amid a variety of healthy, available, accessible, and affordable options. Lifestyle is not a single contributing force to the current chronic disease/obesity epidemic. It’s well documented that inaccessible or nonexistent access to healthy food, sidewalks and bicycle or walking paths, or safe social spaces, especially in lower socio-economic communities, contribute to sedentary habits. These habits lead to poor health outcomes such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer. Today, approximately two-thirds of Americans are overweight resulting in billions of dollars of preventable healthcare costs. Unfortunately, very few communities in Northeast Florida benefit from the seven basic tenants of a healthy designed community and the subsequent local healthcare costs associated with a poor built environment is staggering.
We can make significant inroads to improving the quality of a healthy life by redesigning our car-centric communities into communities that decrease dependence on the automobile; building homes, businesses, schools, churches and parks closer to each other so that people can more easily walk or bike between them; providing opportunities for people to be physically active and socially engaged as a part of their daily routine, improving the physical and mental health of its citizens; allowing persons, if they choose, to age in place and remain all their lives in a community that reflects their changing lifestyles and changing physical capabilities; and limiting the expansion of unhealthy and expensive convenient stores and promoting access to affordable and healthy food, especially fruits and vegetables.
Bold and Forward Thinking Leadership
It is time for community catalysts and visionary leaders to begin demanding and advocating for the inclusion of the recommended Seven Principles of a Healthy Designed Community for their communities. Every community in Northeast Florida should have access to a social space like the Riverside Arts Market; every community should have access to beautiful open space like Memorial Park; every community should be designed or retrofitted to have a WalkScore of over 70.
The time is now for our leaders to stand behind what other cities have known for years [and reaping the benefits] that a healthy community is an economically vibrant community. A community that puts people, health, social cohesion, and happiness at the center of their economic development plan will attract high-wage industries, high wage earners, a Gen Y and Millennial workforce, etc… The Health Planning Council intends to push for a more forward thinking health vision for the region that will place us on the map as the healthiest, most walk able, and the happiest city in the Southeast.
The Health Planning Council chose The Riverside/Avondale community to host our inaugural Community First Hale & Hearty 7K to celebrate a model healthy community which represents the Seven Principles of a Healthy Community Design developed by the Health Planning Council of Northeast Florida:
Encourage mixed land use and greater land density to shorten distances between homes, workplaces, schools and recreation so people can walk or bike more easily to them.
Provide good mass transit to reduce the dependence upon automobiles (a WalkScore of 70 or better)
Build good pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, including sidewalks and bike paths that are safely removed from automobile traffic as well as good right of way laws and clear, easy-to-follow signage.
Ensure affordable housing is available for people of all income levels
Create community centers where people can gather and mingle as part of their daily activities.
Offer access to green space and parks
Create outlets for fresh fruits and vegetables, such as community gardens and farmers markets.
Riverside/Avondale is a great example of what a healthy designed community looks like, what a happy community sounds like, and what a vibrant local economy feels like. Over the next three years, the Community First Hale & Hearty 7K will expand into six additional communities throughout the 7 county region.
Information About the 7K
The Health Planning Council is hoping to leverage the Community First Hale & Hearty 7K as a catalyst for a healthy community revolution. Join us on June 2 at 8:00 AM at the Riverside Arts Market for the inaugural Community First Hale & Hearty 7K. All registered runners will receive up to 4 texting coupons redeemable at local Riverside/Avondale establishments.
Proceeds from the race will benefit the Health Planning Council of Northeast Florida’s health indicator website Northeast Florida Counts and our impending research “Hot-Spotting the Connection between Local Health Disparities and the Environment”