The Case for Healthy Places

IMPROVING HEALTH OUTCOMES.pdf

Place matters for health. It is well documented that one’s zip code can be a more reliable determinant of health than their genetic code. As a mission-driven health plan and integrated delivery system “at risk” for the health of our members and the communities we serve, the 200,000 employees of Kaiser Permanente work hard every day to provide the highest quality care at the lowest possible cost. But we also know that only 10-20% of what creates health has to do with access to care services. The rest of what creates health is directly shaped by where we live, work, learn, play and worship.

So if we are committed to improving population health and well being; reinforcing healthy lifestyle and behavior patterns; reducing health disparities by race and ethnicity; and seeking to reduce the drivers of chronic disease and preventable demand for services (and associated costs) that can make healthcare more affordable—we need to be involved in creating
healthy places.

This report codifies and presents the current evidence based on how placemaking strategies and projects—on a community’s streets, in parks and open spaces, in housing projects, and in diverse public settings—can contribute to improving people’s mental, physical and social health. It explores how built and natural environments that facilitate human connectivity and reduce isolation, while fostering equitable access to the social and economic determinants of health, directly supports human flourishing. It further addresses how placemaking undergirds economic prosperity, but also how leaders can create inclusionary strategies that reduce displacement of lower income and vulnerable families as property values increase.

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