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June 28, 2016 / Ciara Myers, Editor

Does your zip code determine how long you will live? WRAG and COG join forces to explore

By Jennifer Schitter
Principal Health Planner
Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments

What does housing, economy, education, transportation, public safety, environment, and land use have in common? They all have an impact on our health.

Inequalities in community health by location reflect the interplay of social, economic, and environmental factors that differentiate the quality and duration of life for residents from one Metro stop to another.

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) Region Forward Committee is partnering with the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers (WRAG) and its Healthy Communities Working Group (HCWG) to use a cross-sector approach to illuminate such disparities at the neighborhood level (Region Forward Sectors below). Once uncovered, both targeted policy and resource decisions by community stakeholders can have an impact on the lives of our communities. This collective approach to incorporate health considerations into decision-making is commonly referred to as Health in All Policies (HiAP).

In June, local health officials and health funders from across the region joined together to discuss the HiAP opportunities and challenges seen within their own efforts. A few of the comments are listed below:

 HiAP Opportunities:

“It offers the opportunity for people outside of the public health field to share a common objective and interest in health and well-being.”

“An equitable society where all citizens have an opportunity to reach their full potential.”

  HiAP Challenges:

 “Implementing HiAP often involves gaining buy-in and support from other sectors and definitely involves a multi-sector effort, all of which take time and rarely is there funding to do so.”

 “Probably the biggest barrier is the name itself – those outside of the health space are too easily confused. Too often they think HiAP is about clinical care because of the name – and reactions like ‘why should we care about healthcare in transportation polices’ become the norm.”

By COG and WRAG partnering to break down barriers by using cross-sector data, it will show just how where we live impacts the lives we live. This will ultimately assist policy makers in deciding where to invest their time, money, and resources for the greatest community benefit. Although there are some challenges, health officials, funders, and elected officials are optimistic in making health a priority across the metropolitan Washington region.

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