When it comes to recreational space, not all neighborhoods are created equal. Low-income communities and communities of color consistently have the fewest recreational facilities. Even where recreational facilities do exist, there are often other barriers to meaningful access, such as safety concerns, lack of transportation to the facilities, and poor maintenance due to inadequate funding. The result: Residents of these communities often have the fewest opportunities for physical activity.
In Los Angeles, for instance, access to recreational space is disturbingly inequitable. While standards vary, many experts recommend that a city have at least ten acres of park and recreation space per thousand residents. White L.A. neighborhoods more than meet that standard – with an average of 32 acres of park space per thousand residents – but Latino and African-American neighborhoods have only 0.6 and 1.7 park acres, respectively. Similarly, low-income neighborhoods have less than a half-acre of park space per thousand residents, while higher-income neighborhoods have 21 acres.
These patterns are pervasive. Throughout California and the country, low-income communities and communities of color are far less likely to have access to recreational spaces than their white, higher-income counterparts. Unfortunately, and perhaps not surprisingly, the places with the fewest opportunities for physical activity often have worse health outcomes.
Health Inequities in California
The lack of safe, affordable places to play and be active contributes to the health inequities facing low-income communities and communities of color across the state. Residents of “park poor” communities disproportionately bear the burdens of the obesity and diabetes crises:
This week, Southern California Public Radio (SCPR) had a terrific report on student hydration in California. The story highlighted one of the state’s more distressing inequities – the lack of access to and consumption of clean drinking water.
The report focuses primarily on schools in Los Angeles, but does reference a national study that found that more than half of all children and adolescents in the U.S. experience chronic dehydration. While rates are high across all races and ethnicities, they are particularly high among African Americans and Latinos. This is especially evident in LA’s public schools, where a majority of students are from communities of color.
The article has some good quotes from health advocates, including our friends at California Food Policy Advocates, on the challenges of increasing access to and consumption of clean water.
"When you look at water it’s zero calories but yet you need it to survive and to live a fruitful life," says Hector Gutierrez, a nutrition policy analyst who works on water access for the California Food Policy Advocates. "So we are trying to change the paradigm and make water the beverage of choice."
Experts say school is a natural target for efforts to make water more attractive, since kids spend so much of their time there. But there's a lot of work to do...
“A lot of these schools [in California] are very old and have old infrastructure," says Gutierrez. "The water might be hot, or the drinking fountain might be kind of decrepit."
Join us in November to discuss the NEWLY revised draft General Plan Guidelines! These guidelines direct cities and counties to consider key issues such as housing, complete streets, and open space in the planning and development of their communities.
In October, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) is releasing the long-awaited revised general plan guidelines, which will include new sections on how cities and counties can also promote health and equity in future development. These draft guidelines have the potential to impact health in many ways, such as encouraging the availability of healthy foods, promoting active transportation, and identifying housing needs.
Come learn about the potential of the new guidelines at A Blueprint for Health: Planning Communities that Promote Equity! Hear about the draft guidelines from staff at the Office of Research and Planning, talk with local advocates about the potential impacts of the revisions, and share your feedback on the new health and equity components of the draft guidelines.
You can join the discussion about this event on Twitter at #Blueprint4Health.
At CPEHN, we recognize that environmental conditions have a tremendous impact on our health. In our report, The Landscape of Opportunity: Cultivating Health Equity in California, we discussed how those living in areas with worse air quality are more likely to suffer from asthma and other chronic health conditions. We also showed that in California, the majority of people living in areas with adverse environmental conditions are from communities of color.
However, according to an article published this week by California Healthline, the study used an older version of a state environmental health tool (CalEnviroScreen). As a result, the inequities could actually be even starker than the report indicated. In the article, CPEHN Executive Director Sarah de Guia discussed the differences between CalEnviroScreen 1.1 and the 2.0 version and how the new version should yield more detailed results:
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At CPEHN, much of our work has a focus on the social and environmental determinants of health. We know that health is about so much more than what happens in a doctor’s office; it is the result of our surroundings where we live, work, and learn.
“Living in a neighborhood with sidewalks, pedestrian-friendly traffic patterns, and convenient public transportation makes it easier to be active and access important services. Residents in low-income areas are communities of color are often less likely to own a car, so they may rely more on public transportation to go to work, the doctor or the grocery store. … It is important to create safe streets for all users, using sidewalks, dedicated bike paths, and traffic calming measures to make it safer and easier to bike or walk to school and other activities and services.”
For today’s Tuesday Tidbits we’re focusing on a new funding opportunity that focuses on affordable housing and sustainable communities. This past week, the California Department of Housing and Community Development, in conjunction with the Strategic Growth Council, announced the availability of $120 million in funds for the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC) Program.
Welcome to Friday Facts! Each week we'll be taking a look at a specific chart from the Data & Resources section of our website. This week we're focusing on diabetes in California.
The rates of diabetes in California (and across the country for that matter) have been cause for concern for quite a while. According to a recent report from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), over 2.3 million Californians have been diagnosed with diabetes, with the vast majority (1.9 million) being Type 2. Diabetes is also the seventh leading cause of death in the state, with roughly 8,000 dying of complications each year.
As you can see in this chart from our Data & Resources section, the most recent California Health Interview Survey – conducted by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research – found that there are some noticeable disparities in diabetes rates. Native Americans (13.9%), African Americans (11.4%) and Latinos (9.9%) all have higher diabetes rates than Whites (7.2%).
Now in its third year, the Women’s Policy Summit, a major policy forum hosted by the California Center for Research on Women and Families to advance the health, wealth, and power of women and girls, featured the leaders of both the California State Senate and Assembly. For the first time, the event also included a Health Policy Fair showcasing over 20 women’s health organizations and their priority issues and policy recommendations for 2015.
It is always interesting to hear what legislative leaders prioritize as key issues for women’s policy. For example, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins underscored her commitment to policies that uplift families out of poverty and advance reproductive health. But what should we anticipate this year? As Speaker Atkins stated, already in the state budget, we have seen $100 million of cap and trade money allocated toward transit-oriented affordable housing. In regards to what still needs to be done, she also highlighted repealing the punitive CalWORKS Maximum Family Grant rule (also known as the family cap rule) and working towards a state Earned Income Tax Credit as key policies to watch. (The California Budget Project has a great analysis of the Earned Income Tax Credit, if you'd like more information.) And, with the state budget now on stronger footing, both Speaker Atkins and Senate Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon continued to press Governor Jerry Brown to restore funding to critical safety net programs after severe cuts during the recession.