Monday, October 20, 2008

Everyone Deserves a Healthy Neighborhood

The map above comes from a fascinating and useful website called HDMT stands for Healthy Development Measurement Tool, a comprehensive attempt to provide a set of health based metrics and guidelines for evaluating development projects and plans. The site is put together by the San Francisco Department of Public Health and is devoted to the idea that, "...all communities should have equal access to health resources...As such, HDMT objectives and indicators explicitly call out the need for development that serves existing and new residents and workers." The idea of using health as as a driver in the city's decision making process is not a new one, unfortunately, health is currently not a serious consideration in the our city's decision making process, particularly in regards to land-use. The result has been that our city's poorest neighborhoods have the highest rates of preventable disease and the highest rates of premature mortality.

Only a small minority of San Francisco families are able to afford to own housing in San Francisco. With increasing scarcity of affordable rental properties, many families with children are forced to live in substandard or overcrowded housing conditions or are forced to leave the City. Living in substandard housing conditions can cause mold, lead and pest exposures, which in turn can trigger asthma attacks. Importantly, asthma attacks are 100% preventable and cost over $20,000 per hospitalization. In the Mission alone, there were over 130 asthma hospitalizations in 2005-2006. Overcrowding can result in increased risk of infectious disease, noise, and fires. Being forced to move away can result in the loss of jobs, difficult school transitions, and the loss of health protective social networks. In addition, high housing costs create significant stress burdens for families, which can affect individual immune function and ability to stay healthy. For a graphic representation of how this plays out in San Francsico you can look here.

MAC is currently working with neighborhood health organizations to build a movement to address this perisitent and deadly problem. We will regularly keep you updated on this work.

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