Health is created where we live, work, learn and play. As much as our natural environment is critical, our built environment plays a large role in health and well-being. Our journey – pursuing our mission, building connections throughout Arizona, and making the most of our investment opportunities – brought us to the importance of infrastructure and community design in making health and well-being possible.
2002 We first glimpsed the built environment’s effect on health through The Coming of Age. Statewide follow-up meetings tapped into concerns over housing, transportation, recreation and access to healthy foods for Arizonans aging in place.
2005-2010 Our Health in a New Key five-year grant cycle focused on strengths-based community development and drove home the recognition that community design and municipal policies were not up to the task. Vitalyst began investing in work to support healthy eating and active living.
2010-2013 Maryvale on the Move, a project funded in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, produced resident-driven neighborhood audits, a city-wide zoning ordinance amendment and guidelines for community gardens, as well as a master plan for Maryvale’s Cielito Park. A pivotal Nutrition Environment Measures Survey (using a national tool implemented for the first time in Spanish) quantified as well as qualified the limited capacity for healthy foods access.
2013-2015 Vitalyst commissioned a toolkit and advocacy efforts focused on Arizona’s statewide municipal General Plan update process – a key opportunity to improve health where we live, work, learn and play. Residents and advocates in a number of cities successfully incorporated a focus on healthy communities.
2013-present Complete Streets is the term for an internationally-recognized approach to health and well-being. Vitalyst acted as a convener of over 20 organizations who worked with the City of Phoenix to develop, publicize, vet and gain approval for two Complete Streets ordinances.
2015-present Building upon connections from our healthy eating work, Vitalyst contracted with a nationally-recognized firm to facilitate hundreds of stakeholders and co-develop the Maricopa County Food System Coalition that focuses on building a comprehensive local system to account for our food’s journey from seed to table to compost.
Community engagement, systems and policy learnings only increased our calling to do more in addressing infrastructure conditions that can work toward improved health and well-being, and Vitalyst seized the opportunity to help Reinvent PHX along the light rail line.
An area criticized for sprawl and unsustainable living is changing by adopting healthier, sustainable practices and policies. Hell hasn’t frozen over. Health and well-being are simply getting their due.
WHAT WE’VE LEARNED IN 20 YEARS: Place Matters
We ignore taking steps to address the importance of place at our peril. We now know what we didn’t recognize ten years ago: that your zip code says far more about health and longevity than your genetic code. Refining infrastructure from a health perspective can play a critical role in improving a community’s future. Safety, connectivity, healthier lifestyles, economic growth and community vibrancy depend on it.
A JOURNEY OF A THOUSAND MILES BEGINS WITH A SINGLE STEP. —Lao Tzu