Health: The Key to a Healthy Economy
A healthy community is one where everyone has the opportunity to thrive and lead a healthy life. We know there is more to health than healthy genes and that someone’s zip code is more important than their genetic code in determining health outcomes. This is due to social and health inequities in our community’s neighborhoods. We also know that health and income are inextricably linked; higher income people enjoy longer healthier lives.
A recent paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people in Nevada making under $28,000 per year have a lower life expectancy than people of similar incomes in other states. A Pew study found that in the Reno metropolitan area between 2000 and 2014, the upper class decreased and the middle class shrank from 59 percent to 52.8 percent of households, while the lower class grew from 23.2 percent to 30.4 percent. A 2015 Community Health Needs Assessment, conducted by the Washoe County Health District and Renown Health, identified poorer health outcomes in the Truckee Meadows’ lower income neighborhoods, and a correlation of higher educational attainment and income, with longer life spans and improved health.
To build a culture of health and improve well-being, people throughout our region need to have access to quality education, healthy nutritious foods, stable and affordable housing, employment that provides living wages, and safe and clean neighborhoods where residents can lead physically active lifestyles. We also need access to healthcare, mental and behavioral health, and other social services.
Creating conditions for everyone to thrive requires long-term commitment. It requires organizations and entities working together to make fundamental changes in order to address root causes of inequities. To that end, the Truckee Meadows Healthy Communities (TMHC) coalition has been established. The following organizations are working collectively to coordinate resources and activities to address health inequities:
Nonprofits including the Boys and Girls Club, Catholic Charities, Children’s Cabinet, Community Health Alliance, Community Services Agency, Food Bank of Northern Nevada (FBNN), Immunize Nevada, Northern Nevada HOPES, Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce, Renown Health, and United Way of Northern Nevada.
Financial institutions including Charles Schwab Bank, Wells Fargo, and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
Businesses including Nevada Energy, Northern Nevada Medical Center, Praxis Consulting Group, and Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center.
Government entities including the cities of Reno and Sparks, Washoe County, the Washoe County Health District, the Washoe County School District, and the University of Nevada, Reno.
The philanthropic community is represented by the Community Foundation of Western Nevada.
As an initial step to address inequities and poor health outcomes in the Truckee Meadows, TMHC has selected the 89502 zip code area to pilot approaches that might be scaled more broadly in the community. This was based on a high community needs index score for this area. To address access to healthcare and social services, a need identified in the Community Health Needs Assessment, TMHC is bringing numerous providers together to deliver services in neighborhoods. Family Health Festivals are being held quarterly to provide free access to clinical, education, food, nutrition, workforce, immigration, and other services.
TMHC seeks to develop centers that can provide more continuing assistance to community members and, ultimately to develop permanent centers which will provide access to health and social services from multiple providers.
TMHC, through the FBNN, received a Feeding America Grant through the Arnold Foundation. The grant supports a long-range planning initiative to address food security, housing, employment, and health in the disadvantaged portions of the 89502 zip code area.
A PhotoVoice project was conducted to gain input from low-income and homeless youth in the area. Participants photographed features that they felt contributed to or detracted from a healthy community. An engaging video from the project is available on the TMHC website.
Addressing health inequities in the Truckee Meadows will require neighborhoods that provide safe physical activity and transportation options. We need to support educational attainment and training, and create access to higher paying jobs. Neighborhoods must have stable and affordable housing and ready access to healthy foods.
There are numerous benefits to the work and investment of building a healthy community. One is lower healthcare costs. A 2013 study found that the direct and indirect cost of chronic disease in Nevada was $20 billion annually. Businesses bear the economic burden of absenteeism, reduced productivity, and higher health insurance premiums. Together we all bear the burden of service delivery to our neediest community members through our public and private institutions.
The healthy community TMHC envisions is the same one that economic developers want to recruit business and tourists to the area and keep our current economic base and businesses vibrant. By working together, we can build a stable and sustainable healthy community and a vibrant economy for the Truckee Meadows.
To find out more about TMHC and keep up-to-date with information about the initiative please visit: http://www.Truckee MeadowsHealthyCommunities.com.
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