By Stephanie Rivera
A recently released report that examined local policies affecting the quality of life and health of residents in the country’s 40 largest cities has awarded Long Beach a silver medal, an improvement over the city’s bronze earning last year.
“The City is proud to be honored for our efforts in adopting policies that really make a difference in residents’ lives,” said Mayor Robert Garcia in a statement. “Our movement from Bronze to Silver status this year shows our City’s commitment to improving quality of life for all who live, work, and play in Long Beach.”
The annual report by CityHealth—an initiative of the de Beaumont Foundation and Kaiser Permanente—evaluated the city based on nine policies it considers as important to improving the health of residents. It awards each city a gold, silver, bronze, or no medal according to their overall performance in the assessment, and nine policy-specific medals to each city according to the quality and strength of the laws in place, according to a city release.
“Long Beach is leading on many issues, when it comes to improving the health and well-being of its residents, but still has room to improve,” stated Shelley Hearne, CityHealth’s president. “This package of proven, pragmatic policies is the game plan for Long Beach’s leaders to reach gold and maximize their opportunities to create the healthiest city.”
Long Beach received gold medals in complete streets policies, which looks at all forms of transportation like walking, biking, taking the bus or driving, and healthy food procurement policies, including ensuring food sold and served in city buildings meets basic nutritional standards and provide affordable and healthy food choices, according to its release. It also received gold for policies on smoke-free indoor air like reducing smokers’ consumption of tobacco and protecting non-smokers from the effects of tobacco, as well as policies that raise the minimum age for buying tobacco products to 21.
It received one silver medal for its control of alcohol sales, which the report states, when addressed, can reduce crime and spending on health care and criminal justice costs as well as increase safety.
Bronze medals were given for high quality, universal pre-kindergarten efforts—which can result in higher wages and graduation rates and a reduction in teen pregnancy and crime—as well as earned sick leave policies, which can reduce the spread of illnesses and increase employment and income stability as well as save cities money in health care costs, according to the release.
However, Long Beach received no medal with regard to policies on affordable housing, which CityHealth states can promote diverse and inclusive neighborhoods and free up household resources to pay for health care and healthy food. The city also fell short in receiving a medal on food safety/restaurant grading policies, which the report believes can empower consumers, promote transparency and reduce foodborne illness.
Only 25 of the 40 largest cities received a medal this year. Overall gold medalists (those who received five or more gold medals across each of the nine policies) include Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Jose.