New Report: Local Governments Play a Critical Role in Shaping Community Health

Healthy communities don’t just happen – they are created by a multitude of social, economic, environmental, and behavioral factors.

ARTICLE | Jun 14, 2016

Healthy communities don’t just happen – they are created by a multitude of social, economic, environmental, and behavioral factors. Local governments play a critical role in shaping community health through the services they provide, among them: drinking water, public safety, parks, and planning. However, the growing complexity of public health requires innovative service delivery approaches, collaboration, and partnerships.

ICMA’s new report “Improving Quality of Life: The Effect of Aligning Local Service Delivery and Public Health Goals” seeks to advance the conversation about viewing and managing general local government infrastructure, transportation systems, water and sanitation, land use and planning, and other services as part of broader efforts to contribute to a healthy environment and support healthy lifestyles. Through a review of existing research, a series of expert interviews, and analysis of global examples, this report examines the management of more traditional assets and services (i.e., roads and public safety) through a health-oriented lens. The study also considers new opportunities for collaboration, public engagement and education, decision making, and governance.

“Improving Quality of Life: The Effect of Aligning Local Service Delivery and Public Health Goals”: Overall key findings

  • Efforts to improve public health encompass a myriad of local services. In addition to those service areas with traditional public health roles — public safety, water, and sanitation — local governments increasingly realize that planning, infrastructure, parks and recreation, public transportation, and community development also greatly impact the health of residents.
  • Ensuring the public health considerations are woven into all aspects of planning, programs, and policy will enable local governments to best position their communities for the challenges and opportunities ahead.
  • Local governments and their leaders are realizing that building a healthy community must be a multifaceted and multidisciplinary endeavor that integrates public outreach and long-term policy changes.
  • Creating a healthy community can improve residents’ quality of life, save resources, and enhance economic and labor force development.
  • One of the leading public health challenges facing countries around the globe is combating unhealthy behaviors such as physical inactivity and obesity, which often lead to chronic diseases.

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