Is your city healthy?

From time to time, sites will publish lists like “Top 10 Healthy Cities in the U.S.” or “Five of the Healthiest Cities in the Northwest”. Does it ever make you wonder how they arrive at their conclusions? What makes a healthy city?

Serious articles will mention the criteria used. It’s usually a combination of availability and quality of heathcare and a deeper look at the lifestyles of the residents and what kind of healthy choices a city promotes or makes available. Some will also look at statistics, such as obesity rates, and ratios of heathcare providers to inhabitants. And, of course, any city given the description of “healthy” will rate high on sanitation, hygiene, and water quality.

For example, when published their 10 ten healthy cities list, they prefaced it with their criteria:

“These cities provide residents with exercise opportunities, good food choices and strong support networks.”

Other criteria often examined are as follows:

  • Access to fresh, locally grown food at Farmer’s markets and the like
  • Walkable neighborhoods, bike paths, and access to exercise facilities
  • Accessibility of parks, golf courses, and wooded areas for recreation
  • Types of city health initiatives in progress
  • Percentage of population who smokes
  • Proximity to water for recreation at lakes, rivers, and the ocean
  • Pollutions levels and air quality
  • Statistics of student athletes in the area
  • Access to fresh meats, including seafood
  • Access to cross-country or downhill skiing, ice skating, and sledding in winter months
  • Number of hospitals and clinics

If you are wondering if your city is healthy, a quick google search will usually get you an answer. Sites, such as Livability have a search feature built in to allow you to access your city and the data collected about it, often including a Walk Score ® between 1 and 100 to indicate how walkable the area is.

There are numerous organizations working to increase healthy cities around the world, often in conjunction with the World Health Organization’s Healthy Cities program, which was developed to combat the negative impacts of urbanization. One such organization is The Alliance for Healthy Cities, a network of governments and agencies working together to share information internationally in an effort to promote Healthy Cities.

Citizens of any city would benefit from simple research about their own city to discover more about how and where they can participate in healthy activities and to find if there are areas of improvement needed and how to contribute to those.