Public health issues are a major talking point in every midterm election year, and 2018 is no exception. According to the Pew Research Center, the most important issues to prospective midterm voters are immigration and healthcare.
Healthcare is a broad topic that covers everything from the Affordable Care Act to clean water access. Public healthcare is also connected to quality of life, prompting many candidates and voters to advocate for livable communities and other forms of social justice.
A livable community is one that’s focused on public health and sustainability. Livable communities are festive and diverse meeting places, according to Congress for the New Urbanism. They are also healthy spaces that support healthful living and encourage social connections.
Livable communities and sustainability are regularly popping up as big-ticket issues in political campaigns, but reactions are mixed. In New York State’s recent gubernatorial primary, for instance, underdog Cynthia Nixon advocated for improved public transportation, universal rent control, and economic equality.
Despite her social justice-heavy platform, Nixon came in second behind Andrew M. Cuomo, who received 65.6 percent of the popular vote for a decisive win. Cuomo, New York’s sitting governor, is seeking his third term and may have a stronger chance of beating out Republican candidate Marc Molinaro than Nixon, an actress and activist with no political experience.
Sustainable Neighborhoods as Cultural Centers
While New York City voters defaulted to Cuomo, Nixon came out on top in several counties downstate, including Tompkins County. Home to Ithaca as well as Cornell University, Tompkins County is a long-time leader in regards to the livable community model.
Livable communities are, at their core, walkable communities, and Ithaca fits the bill. Its downtown Commons, a two-block pedestrian mall, has been flagged as a model for walkable development.
But there are plenty of other cities and neighborhoods across the country that embody the ideals of a livable community. The Old Mill District in Bend, Oregon, is a prime example of smart city planning and sustainable repurposing. What was once the Earth’s largest sawmill is now home to eclectic shops, restaurants, and community meeting spaces, right in the heart of downtown Bend.
This century’s tiny house movement provides another avenue towards sustainability and greater quality of life. By embracing minimalism and using less resources, those living the tiny house lifestyle are at the forefront of innovation and community.
Improved Medical Care and Public Health Facilities
While voting provides an ideal avenue for promoting and cultivating social change, there are myriad opportunities for more direct involvement in the fields of public health and business analytics. Sustainability and walking development models wouldn’t be possible without data analysis, for example.
Analysts use personally gathered data and existing reports to strategize and make important decisions regarding livable community models. City planners rely on the opinion of analysts when developing urban renewal plans, and those analysts are likely to serve as advisers over the course of long-term urban development projects.
Data and analytics are also necessary for healthcare reform. Regis College describes public health analysts as professionals who “study public health matters and find the right solution for their organizations, communities, and the general population.”
To that end, quality healthcare starts with prevention, such as reducing pollution and traffic congestion while encouraging healthier lifestyle choices. Those preventative measures are the foundation of livable communities, and a superb avenue for improving quality of life on a large scale.
Healthcare delivery system reform can lead to improved health across populations and significantly reduce the per capita cost of healthcare. When healthcare is accessible and affordable, social justice becomes a much more attainable goal.
The 2018 midterm election can possibly turn the tide and bring America back on the path towards sustainability and improved public health. Voters can use the election as a platform for their personal political dissent, or they can take their passion for social justice a step further. Public health professionals and eco-conscious city planners may just hold the key to making livable communities an everyday reality across the U.S.