Oct 13, 2020, 2:00 PM, Posted by
Alonzo L. Plough
What can we learn from other countries about advancing well-being—a notion of health that extends beyond the absence of disease? A new, free book will offer examples and actionable ideas.
Since we originally published this post in July 2019, more cities and countries are exploring ways of centering decision-making on human and planetary well-being—from Iceland, which revealed a new well-being framework, to Canada, which is exploring budget indicators that encompass happiness and well-being.
Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic is a reminder of how interconnected we are and always have been across lives, livelihoods, and well-being of communities and societies everywhere. In the United States, its spread has sharply illuminated inequitable conditions and ongoing systemic racism. Rates of infection and complications from the virus are significantly higher in communities of color, Native communities and tribes, immigrant communities, and other groups that live with higher rates of air pollution, spotty health insurance coverage, persistent health inequities, and lack of paid leave or a financial safety net to follow “stay home” public health orders. As we recover, prepare for potential future outbreaks and rebuild, we must prioritize equitable well-being as the ultimate goal. We might take a lesson from New Zealand, which adopted a well-being budget last year, has made significant investments in vital services like mental health and education as well as environmental protections, and has had an exceptionally low mortality rate and relatively rapid recovery from COVID-19.
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Mar 23, 2020, 8:45 AM, Posted by
Cities from around the world have a lot to teach us about improving our planet's health. Their efforts can inspire us to be resourceful, creative, and inclusive as we work to tackle climate change and its health impacts.
In times of crisis, it becomes readily apparent how interconnected we are and that sharing learning around what works and what doesn’t is of utmost importance.
We are seeing this with COVID-19, as learning from Singapore, from Italy, from South Korea and from China is informing the efforts of other countries—including the U.S. response.
The same is true of climate change.
A recent survey found that the proportion of Americans who are concerned about climate change tripled over the last five years and is now at an all-time high.
Whether it’s raging wildfires; stronger, bigger hurricanes and tornadoes; more extreme heat events; or worsening air pollution, people in cities across the United States and around the world are seeing, living and having to manage the impact.
What’s worse is that damage caused by global climate change magnifies inequities, placing the most vulnerable communities and individuals at greatest risk. Historic and social factors, such as access to health care; where you live or work; your age; and your income can all impact how and how much climate change harms your health.
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Jul 25, 2018, 11:00 AM, Posted by
Inclusive public spaces for all are a central part of healthy, resilient communities. A new framework can help ensure that processes for shaping these spaces lead to design decisions that promote equity.
It has been said that inspiration comes when you least expect it. My visit to Melbourne, Australia, inspired me to take an international look at place-making. I was standing in Federation Square, restlessly waiting for my daughter to finish her shift. I hadn’t seen her in nearly a year. I was wearing my mom hat, not my urban planner’s hat.
Nevertheless, as my eyes swept the Square, I had the sense of being in a very special place. And while I didn’t know it at the time, I was not surprised to later learn that Federation Square in the heart of Melbourne has been recognized as one of the best public squares in the world. Fed Square, built on top of a working railway, comprises sculpted and natural elements; it has small spaces like fire pits; and large and medium-size open spaces for planned and unplanned activity. There is a large TV screen that broadcasts international and national sporting events (it is not always on). The Square is open 24 hours a day; has free Wi-Fi for all; rest rooms; and no signs prohibiting activity or lingering. Restaurants open their doors to it; and transit lines and shops surround it.
I visited Fed Square daily for eight days, and what impressed me was how well it reflected Melbourne’s rich cultural diversity; how seamlessly it connected to the streets, buildings and facilities on its periphery; and how welcoming it always felt. It is a place for people—the well-heeled, the not-so lucky—and everyone in between. I should note, though, that Federation Square’s value as an open public space and cultural hub is currently being tested. Controversial changes to it are pushing forward sans public review and participation.
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Jun 18, 2018, 11:00 AM, Posted by
George Hobor, Laura Leviton
A surgeon in Cardiff, Wales, who regularly treated victims of violence, discovered that many cases went unreported. He devised a model for collecting data and collaborating with both law enforcement and community to predict and prevent violence. This approach is now taking root here in the United States.
Weekend after weekend, the wave of emergency department (ED) patients would arrive. Oral and maxillofacial surgeon Jonathan Shepard would treat shattered jaws, knife wounds and other facial injuries at the hospital in Cardiff, Wales. These injuries stemmed from brawls in bars and nightclubs where broken glasses and bottles were wielded as weapons. Strangely, Dr. Shepard found that only 23 percent of these assaults treated in the hospital were reported to law enforcement.
Harnessing the Power of Data for Violence Prevention
Determined to find a way to stem the violence, Dr. Shepard mobilized health care providers, law enforcement heads, city officials and other local leaders in working together to address what was happening within their community.
Local hospitals agreed to gather basic anonymized information from each assault victim admitted to the emergency department, including the specific location of the violent incident, time of day, and weapon involved. They removed patient identifiers and shared the anonymous data with local law enforcement officials, who combined those data with their own records.
With these data, police were able to map when and where violence might happen, and concentrate resources on hotspot locations such as specific streets, businesses, schools, or transit stations, and during particular times of the week, to help prevent incidents.
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Sep 21, 2017, 12:00 PM, Posted by
What can the U.S. learn from Copenhagen about use of 'placemaking' to foster healthier, more inclusive communities?
One of the most striking cultural symbols upon arriving in Copenhagen is the sheer number of cyclists navigating city streets—in fact bicycles outnumber cars!
But during my recent visit, it was the trash cans that actually caught my eye.
Just as in many U.S. cities, Copenhagen’s citizens can return used bottles and cans for cash. But, unlike other cities, Copenhagen’s trash cans are equipped with small “deposit” shelves on the outside to place recyclables. This provides an easier, safer, and more sanitary way of collecting discarded cans. Instead of digging through trash cans overflowing with smelly garbage and sharp glass, collectors can easily retrieve bottles and cans from these exterior shelves.
A small feature like this speaks volumes about how our public spaces can support social values like dignity and compassion.
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Aug 23, 2017, 12:00 PM, Posted by
Creative programs in Latin America are inspiring U.S. communities to pursue similar approaches that connect young adults to education and employment.
Like many high school graduates in Brazil, Caroline was eager to find a job. She desperately needed money to continue her studies and pursue her dream of becoming an engineer. But two years after graduating, she was still unemployed. Caroline eventually managed to improve her job prospects in an unlikely way—through drawing, dance and breath work.
Intent on breaking free from a family history of women who weren’t able to get good jobs or finish high school, Caroline discovered a job training program run by Rede Cidadã (The Citizen Network). The non-profit organization connects youth to jobs and apprenticeships throughout Brazil, where the youth unemployment rate is nearly 25 percent.
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Apr 13, 2017, 10:00 AM, Posted by
From a dementia village to the next AirBnB for seniors, global entrepreneurs are searching for ways to improve the lives of a rapidly aging population. Their lessons can inform efforts right here in the United States where the elderly population is expected to more than double by 2060.
Through the plate glass window of the café where I sipped my coffee, I watched an older gentleman bend to pick something off the ground. He did this repeatedly: down and up, down and up. I learned that he did this every day for hours, picking up fallen leaves.
The man had dementia and lived in Hogewey, a community outside Amsterdam where older people with advanced dementia lead largely autonomous lives in familiar, welcoming surroundings. This particular gentleman liked to pick up leaves—and why not? It did him no harm; in fact, it gave him a little exercise, and he probably found the activity relaxing.
Hogewey is unique—a gated, village-like community where those with dementia live in small-group homes that look and feel like real homes, with people of similar backgrounds and experiences. Caregiving and other staff support them in everyday activities and blend into the environment, serving as grocery store clerks, hairdressers, bartenders, and neighbors.
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Jan 29, 2015, 9:54 AM, Posted by
Maryjoan Ladden, Susan Mende
Ever since President Obama announced the restoration of diplomatic ties between the United States and Cuba, there’s been growing excitement over the potential for new opportunities for tourism, as well as technology and business exchanges. Most people assume that the flow will be one-sided, with the United States providing expertise and investment to help Cuba’s struggling economy and decaying infrastructure.
That assumption would be wrong. America can—and already has—learned a lot from Cuba. At RWJF, we support MEDICC, an organization that strives to use lessons gleaned from Cuba’s health care system to improve outcomes in four medically underserved communities in the United States—South Los Angeles; Oakland, Calif.; Albuquerque, N.M.; and the Bronx, N.Y. Even with very limited resources, Cuba has universal medical and dental care and provides preventive strategies and primary care at the neighborhood level, resulting in enviable health outcomes. Cuba has a low infant mortality rate and the lowest HIV rate in the Americas, for example—with a fraction of the budget spent in the United States.
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Jul 15, 2013, 10:00 AM, Posted by
Timothy Landers, RN, CNP, PhD, is an assistant professor at The Ohio State University and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Nurse Faculty Scholar. This post originally appeared on the Ohio State Ethiopia blog.
*Gennit is not her real name but the story is true. Her mom gave us permission (from the row behind us) to use this story and photo. Hopefully, this counts as her “What I did over summer vacation” essay when school starts.
I’m sitting on the plane with Gennit, a 13-year old girl who was born in Ethiopia, but now lives in Atlanta with her brother and parents. Gennit is a nice and articulate 13-year girl, and we chatted during the 13-hour flight about our experiences in Ethiopia.
She had a lot of things to say, and I noticed that she was somewhat soft-spoken making it difficult to hear her at times. I asked her about my observation that many Ethiopian girls and women speak softly and what she thought about that.
Gennit told me she thought is was more “ladylike” to speak softly and, in Ethiopia, children are taught that it is wrong for a girl to talk loudly.
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