What Makes a City Healthy Anyway?

What does it mean for a community to be “healthy?” This is a question that has been asked by many people, and there is no one answer to this question. However, in order to strive toward becoming the healthiest in America, we need to select metrics that indicate the overall health of our community. In this blog post, we will discuss the selection of health metrics that America’s Healthiest City plans to track and how Richmond can use these metrics to become healthier.

There are numerous factors that contribute to the health of a metro region. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the WHO Healthy Cities Network have identified three pillars of health: physical, mental, and social. The World Economic Forum’s Healthy Living Framework for Cities adds environmental factors to this list. Additionally, America’s Health Rankings from the United Health Foundation include indicators such as access to healthcare, obesity, and smoking rates.

After reviewing these frameworks, we have selected the following metrics to track the health of Richmond compared to the health of other cities in the nation:

NutritionPrevalence of obesity
Prevalence of diabetes
Prevalence of food insecurity
SanitationPrevalence of substandard sanitation facilities
Prevalence of substandard drinking water
Prevalence of substandard hygiene facilities
Physical activityPrevalence of inactivity
RestAverage time in bed, hours
Emotional Resilience/SpiritualityPrevalence of mental/substance abuse disorders
Suicide rate relative to the global average
Environment and Social Well-BeingAvailability of green space
Prevalence of substandard air quality
Occupational & Financial Well-BeingUnemployment rate
Literacy rate
Prevalence of tertiary education
Per capita income
Public SafetyPrevalence of violent crime
Prevalence of road traffic injuries
HousingAffordability of available housing units
Availability of housing/rental inventory
Prevalence of homelessness
Healthcare OutcomesInfant mortality rate
Infrastructure & AccessAge-friendly infrastructure
Connectivity to the Internet

These metrics were selected because they are indicative of the overall health of a community and because there are indications there is data available to tell a story. We will seek input from community stakeholders, including academia, government, nonprofits, and businesses in order to refine these metrics and ensure the inclusion of metrics that provide further clarity on progress toward our goal. By tracking these metrics, we can gain clarity on where our community suffers and identify areas in which we can improve.

Richmond has an opportunity to be a leader in urban health. I believe we can achieve that in 10 years. By working together and using these metrics as a guide, we can strive to become the healthiest community in America. As this project evolves, we aim to provide easy access to this data. We welcome and will seek out partnerships with the WHO and the World Economic Forum, as well as with local partners who have a vested interest in disseminating and accessing this information.

If you have input that you would like to share about these metrics or want to partner on building an information hub, we encourage you to contact us. Thank you for reading and we look forward to working together to make Richmond the Healthiest City in America!


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