On Friday, CPEHN and 17 diverse public health, environmental, and climate change related organizations signed onto a joint letter to the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research commending the recently revised 2015 General Plan Guidelines, which includes new chapters on Healthy Communities and Social Equity, Environmental Justice, and Community Resiliency as well as an updated Public Engagement and Outreach chapter. The revised Guidelines show promise in directing cities and counties to consider health and social equity in future development.
In addition to the strong support for these chapters, the joint letter outlined several recommendations for strengthening them. For example, we call upon OPR to more prominently acknowledge the changing racial, ethnic, economic, and aging demographics of California. By understanding these demographic shifts, our cities and counties can better consider existing and future needs, especially in historically under-resourced communities. We also recommend the document define key terms, such as health and equity, to build awareness and understanding at the outset of the planning process and to utilize visual representations of key concepts or frameworks within the Guidelines.
The specific chapters on which our groups focused our analysis included Public Engagement and Outreach (Chapter 3), Healthy Communities (Chapter 5), and Social Equity, Environmental Justice, & Community Resilience (Chapter 6). The comment letter also reflected feedback from community workshops hosted by CPEHN in partnership with OPR in Oakland, Fresno, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Orange County in November 2015.
On September 30, 2015, the California Mental Health Services Act Multicultural Coalition (CMMC) presented highlights from various State of the State Reports at the Behavioral Health Policy Forum in Carlsbad. One report focused on the experiences of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) community and their access to mental health services in California. DHH community college students were asked to share their personal experiences and these short videos are highlights from their stories. The DHH State of the State Report and others can be found on the Racial and Ethnic Mental Health Disparities Coalition (REMHDCO) website.
Every day, people make decisions about land use that impact whether or not communities will be safe. These decisions include where schools are sited, how streets and parks are designed, and the kinds of businesses that are allowed to operate. To the extent that safety has been taken into account in these decisions, it has mostly been through the lens of crime prevention. PI’s new paper, Community Safety by Design: Preventing Violence through Land Use, explains how a violence prevention lens and a crime prevention lens are similar, and how they are different.
One difference is that a violence prevention lens necessarily engages the end-user – community residents—in shaping land-use decisions that work for the community and support community safety. This engagement is a critical component to achieving equitable health and safety outcomes, and applies across many sectors. Our paper drew on extensive research and interviews with 23 key informants from planning, public health, the justice system, and other sectors, and outlines concrete steps to better integrate effective violence prevention strategies into land-use decisions. The report includes:
A few weeks ago, CPEHN wrapped up our fall convening series, A Blueprint for Health: Planning Communities that Promote Equity in Los Angeles and San Diego. Over 100 advocates, planners, and local governmental staff engaged the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) on the importance of including health and equity in the newly released draft statewide general plan guidelines. These convenings were space for community advocates to provide direct feedback and comments to OPR staff on how the plan guidelines can be incorporate localized community engagement strategies and fostering more equitable development.
Allison Allbee from our partner organization Changelab Solutions presented in both Los Angeles and San Diego about the context of how important the state’s general plan guidelines can be for local development and how communities can get involved in the process.
Dr. Elizabeth Baca from OPR also presented about what the new draft guidelines currently include. She especially focused on specific sections concerning public engagement, healthy communities and social equity. These chapters can be read by clicking on the links below.
This week, CPEHN began its fall convening series and over 100 advocates attended events in Fresno and Oakland to discuss the importance of health and equity in neighborhood planning. The convening series, A Blueprint for Health: Planning Communities that Promote Equity, features a discussion of the newly released draft statewide general plan guidelines from the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) and how this document can be used to develop healthier, more equitable communities across the state.
Today in Oakland, the convening began with a presentation from Heather Wooten from ChangeLab Solutions about the importance of the state’s general plan guidelines and why community involvement is key.
Both Tuesday’s event in Fresno and today’s in Oakland featured a presentation by Elizabeth Baca and Sahar Shirazi from OPR about what is in the new draft guidelines. In particular, they highlighted three chapters dealing with health, equity, and public engagement. You can read those chapters here:
On November 4, 2015 I attended “Smart on Safety,” an invitational summit to examine how California can reform the criminal justice system and transform communities to prioritize prevention over punishment. As Adam Kruggel, Director of Organizing for PICO California, stated, “mass incarceration creates a legitimacy crisis for some of our most deeply held values – that everyone has a right to be a human being.” Harsh sentences, three strikes, mandatory minimums, racial profiling, gang injunctions, and transfer of juveniles to adult courts have demonized poor black and brown males as less deserving “others” – predators who are beyond redemption.
Anyone who works in marginalized communities knows the toll that these policies take on the health and life prospects of their teen patients. Although one would hope that the appalling scene in South Carolina is not the norm, it has been well documented that black students are three times more likely to be suspended than white students. Suspension is a gateway to dropout, economic instability, crime and incarceration. And we don’t need to look only at teens to see how “tough on crime” affects children’s health. Tamir Rice, a 12 year old who was playing with a toy gun in a park, is dead. The children of Eric Gardner and Walter Scott are fatherless. Approximately 2.7 million children have a parent in prison – a vastly disproportionate number of whom are poor and black. Millions more children experience post-traumatic stress disorder from extended exposure to violent encounters between citizens and law enforcement in their communities.
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:
Welcome to This Week in Equity Engagement on Twitter (TWEET) for the week of November 2, 2015. Once again, we have a bunch of great social and environmental justice discussion to highlight. Let’s get to it!
California’s prison spending continues to pace the country.
Last week, CPEHN was one of the many organizations that attended the PolicyLink “Equity Summit 2015: All in for inclusion, justice, and prosperity” in Los Angeles. This three day national gathering convened thousands of advocates, organizers, and elected officials from all over the country to discuss and brainstorm opportunities for policy change with a clear equity focus. Over 60 sessions were offered covering a broad swath of equity-focused topics including: social entrepreneurship, climate change, housing, transportation, incarceration, inclusive governance, employment, and many more.
CPEHN kicked off the Equity Summit by participating in a pre-summit Alliance for Boys and Men of Color Policy Convening where we worked with the Health Policy Workgroup to narrow down the Alliance’s primary focuses for 2016. We have been co-leading the workgroup with PolicyLink and have continued to bring health equity legislation and policy issues to the discussions.