The very places that should feel healthy and safe – homes and neighborhoods – don't for many Californians. A new report released today finds one third of Californians consider their communities unhealthy places to live. Among low-income residents, that number is nearly half.
The Advancing Wellness Poll, funded by The California Wellness Foundation, finds that problems such as rising income inequality, crime, environmental pollution and lack of economic opportunity are taking a toll on Californians' health and wellness – and residents know it. These findings follow national research showing California now has the greatest health disparities in the country, and they disproportionally impact low-income residents and people of color.
"Where we live, work and play shouldn't determine our health and wellness," said Judy Belk, president and CEO of The California Wellness Foundation. "But for too many Californians, the safety of our neighborhoods, the quality of our schools, the cleanliness of our environment and our ability to earn a living where we live affect our well-being."
The Foundation funded the Advancing Wellness Poll to hear directly from Californians about their health and what it means to live in a healthy community. The poll, conducted by Field Research Corporation, surveyed nearly 2,200 California adults in seven languages and dialects to capture perspectives across the state's diverse populations. The Foundation also is partnering with Zócalo Public Square to share the stories behind the data and spark conversations about health and wellness in communities facing health disparities.
"By lifting community voices, we can jumpstart critical conversations about barriers to health and wellness in California," said Richard Tate, Cal Wellness' vice president of public affairs. "The Advancing Wellness Poll is a powerful tool for policymakers, foundations and community leaders as we work to address the root causes of health inequities across the state."
The poll finds that those impacted most by health disparities in California want community groups to take an active role in closing those gaps. Zócalo's stories illustrate how communities across the state are taking innovative steps to create healthier people and places.
- In San Bernardino, La'Nae Norwood, a self-proclaimed "poster child for the school to prison pipeline," demonstrates how mentorship, support and meaningful opportunities can disrupt that pipeline.
- Jean Howell, M.D., is promoting wellness in Chico among local Native American communities by embracing practices of mindfulness and meditation that are inherent in their culture and traditions.
- In the Bay Area, Mike Wilson is working with labor unions and environmental organizations to promote policies and regulations that will prevent the type of damage the Richmond oil refinery disaster wrought on workers' and the community's health four years ago.
The Foundation will use these findings to guide its grantmaking and establish benchmarks to track its progress.