So, what should be done?
Leaders should commit to the long game to improve health and well-being, acknowledging that it will take years to achieve better health. Progress must be measured and assessed through meaningful reductions in conditions like obesity, depression, and asthma rates, rather than people served or beds used. Importantly, efforts must be designed to address health inequities, prioritizing solutions that changes the very systems that have historically failed communities of color, contributing to far worse health outcomes.
We also need to recognize the importance of reducing our reliance on urgent services, such as emergency rooms, by investing in vital conditions, like humane housing, belonging, a healthy environment, food security, meaningful work, reliable transportation and more. After all, 80 percent of a person’s health is determined by the presence of these vital conditions, not by the care they receive in a clinical setting.
Cities should look for new approaches to improving vital conditions that require agencies to work collaboratively alongside residents. Agencies in charge of parks, transportation, housing, economic development and more all play a role in determining if residents can thrive or not.
Transforming systems to improve vital conditions for wellbeing should be based on learnings from people working on the ground in communities. These stewards best understand the barriers that exist in specific neighborhoods and how to improve them.