March 27, 2014

Creating Strong, Healthy Communities

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The Affordable Care Act is already helping millions of Americans, including many people in the community HUD serves. With the deadline to enroll for health insurance on March 31, this week we are devoting the HUDdle blog to how housing and health care are intertwined and how the ACA is helping us achieve HUD’s mission. There is still time to get covered, so visit www.healthcare.gov for more information.

HUD’s Office of Economic Resilience (OER) helps communities and regions build diverse, prosperous, resilient economies by enhancing quality of place; advancing effective job creation strategies; reducing housing, transportation, and energy consumption costs; promoting clean energy solutions; and creating economic opportunities for all.

A key part of building a strong community is ensuring that it’s a healthy community. So an important part of this work focuses on improving health through improved physical access to health care and by encouraging community planning that allows for more physical activity, active living, and improved access to healthy food. This means better transportation options, new clinics and medical practices in convenient locations, and making sure healthy food is available just down the street. 

Coupled with the Affordable Care Act, our work is going to create stronger communities, healthier lifestyles, and greater access to health care services.

By expanding access to health care and providing better coverage, the Affordable Care Act is already having a positive impact on people’s lives. Having health insurance is vital to receiving decent care, but personal health is also impacted by one’s home and work environment and economic and social opportunities. The relationship between the built environment and public health are well documented—living in a safe, clean, and walkable community can add years to a person’s life expectancy.

That’s why in 2012, the National Prevention Council, a coalition of 17 federal departments and agencies with the mission of improving health and wellness for all Americans, released the National Prevention Action Plan. As part of this plan, one of HUD’s roles has been to encourage recipients of Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grants and Community Challenge Grants to evaluate planning and development investments, specifically looking for the potential to promote access to affordable communities and active and healthy living.

We’ve seen some encouraging results.

A HUD grantee in the Northeast is developing a Community Health Atlas and Strategies, which includes an analysis of community health factors from regional food systems and food security to obesity and drug abuse prevention. Small grants will be available to regional organizations and municipalities to implement identified strategies. Through a network of partnerships with community-based organizations, NGOs, the City, state and federal partners in a grantee community has programs designed to improve indoor air quality, encourage green jobs in the community, increase recycling rates, and reduce asthma and toxic exposure in schools and homes. 

In the Midwest, a grantee has taken a two-pronged approach to addressing fresh food access and job opportunities in low income communities. A local nonprofit organization will provide garden leadership training to empower residents to revive neighborhoods through gardening and supporting health-food entrepreneurs.  Another group will develop a food-skills and job placement training academy for the chronically unemployed and will identify partnerships for a food incubator facility to create new food related businesses.

And in the Southwest, a HUD grantee is conducting a Health Impact Assessments of each of their targeted transit district’s built environment. Healthy food and recreation access, walking and bicycling safety, and exposure to excessive heat and solar radiation will be the focus of the existing and currently planned conditions HIA.

By expanding access to health insurance through the Affordable Care Act and working with local communities to create healthier communities, the Obama Administration is improving the health of all Americans.

 

 

 

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