A New Imperative for Healthier Cities
Collaboration among business, academic, and government leaders is oftentimes the key factor in making cities better places to live. And while local leaders often come together to discuss growth or infrastructure, shouldn't they consider health care and social programs too?
By asking, how can we keep our citizens well, or how can we make our city a healthier place to live, communities can make dramatic strides working together. Some cities are starting to do this by creating new programs and services to improve the health of citizens. Others are focusing on the overall population, making their community a more desirable place to live and work. Either way, by providing ways to improve citizen health, smarter cities can attract new businesses and enhance quality of life for everyone.
Consider Rochester, New York. The region has more than a million residents and had suffered significant job loss over the past few decades. However, their focus on health care has produced a new level of economic vitality. Local initiatives to keep citizens well and bring down the cost of healthcare have gone a long way, making Rochester the sixth most livable city in the U.S. by Places Rated Almanac 2012.
Commercial health insurance costs in Rochester are 30 percent below the national average and Medicare spending is 21 percent below the national average. Employers like this and they're bringing jobs to the community, making it the number one city for job growth in New York State. This didn't happen by accident. Over the years, seven large employers, including IBM, have come together with community and business leaders to create a focused, long-term vision to make Rochester one of the healthiest cities in the nation.
This is a model that can easily be replicated. Employers can promote healthy habits and coordinate with regional leaders on healthy living. Parks and walkable communities encourage people to get out and move. Better coordination of social programs can help ensure chronically ill patients receive the care they need. Finally, the application of information technology can link health records and social-program data together for better insight and action.
A healthy city requires more than a few good hospitals. It requires a holistic approach and a commitment to developing the infrastructure to support change. Isn't it time that every community use healthcare as an economic development tool? After all, a healthy city is a prosperous city.
Discover more. Click to view our infographic on how smarter social programs help caseworkers better serve clients.