If the finalists in Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge are any indication, community health and wellness are very much on cities’ minds. At least eleven of the twenty focus on issues ranging from infant mortality (Cincinnati) to community wellbeing (Santa Monica). Some are directly focused on community engagement – such as Lafayette’s “Level Up Lafayette!” and Lexington’s “CitizenLex” – while proposals like Milwaukee’s “Home Gr/Own” and Knoxville’s “Urban Food Corridor” focus on addressing food deserts and the availability of healthy food assets
It should be noted that Phoenix (not counted as part of the 11 cities above) is one of those top twenty finalists. Focused on the built environment, its “Smart Energy Neighborhood Model” aims to reduce energy use while promoting renewable energy. Such an “energy-savvy lifestyle” is itself capable of producing important, if seemingly indirect, health and quality-of-life impact. Without smarter energy production and consumption, this desert life cannot be expected to be long-term sustainable.
The Mayors Challenge taps into a fundamental truth: it’s important to think globally, but implementing solutions starts locally. Perhaps this crop of finalists bears testament to the fact that broader thinking on the health impacts of food, transportation, built environment and community vibrancy is finally taking root.