Smart Cities Dive: Report: Most large US cities earn high marks for public health policies

By Chris Teale

  • A new report has found the majority of large U.S. cities lead the way on adopting policies to help residents’ health and wellbeing, but others are behind. The CityHealth initiative by the de Beaumont Foundation and Kaiser Permanente scored the 40 largest U.S. cities based on nine health policy areas: affordable housing, alcohol sales control, Complete Streets, earned sick leave, food safety, health food procurement at city buildings, high-quality pre-K, smoke-free indoor air and raising the minimum age to buy tobacco to 21.
  • CityHealth’s report found that Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Jose, CA lead the way and received overall gold medals. While another 20 cities received credit with overall silver or bronze medals, 15 did not receive any overall medal as they received three or fewer medals across the nine policy areas.
  • “Many cities are demonstrating significant progress across nine pragmatic polices, which have been proven to help millions of people live longer, better lives. Still, too many cities are not getting to gold,” Dr. Shelley Hearne, CityHealth president, said in a statement.
  • The rankings should serve as a call to action to the cities that did not earn a medal. Several cities moved up the rankings from last year, including San Jose’s move up to a gold medal berth, four cities moving up to silver and five earning an overall bronze. “Every unearned gold medal represents an opportunity to take action and to improve people’s quality of life,” Hearne said. Increasingly, policy areas like affordable housing and education have taken on more importance as cities innovate, especially as a smart city is also an inclusive one.

    A lot of work remains ahead for all cities. CityHealth found that of the 40 cities, 13 received medals for their affordable housing policies, a proportion that leaders will likely acknowledge needs more attention. But other areas will give smart city advocates heart. CityHealth found Complete Streets policies are good in 32 of the 40 cities, while 36 of 40 have smoke-free indoor air and 33 out of 40 are doing good work to promote high-quality pre-K. So while there is plenty to be done, cities have shown that on some issues, they can lead.