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Guiding Los Angeles Toward a Healthy Future

This is part of series exploring issues surrounding the Plan for a Healthy Los Angeles, produced in partnership with the California Endowment.


Los Angeles is a city with many health inequities, and where a person lives often determines their health destiny. Residents in low-income communities such as Boyle Heights and South Los Angeles are more likely to be obese, suffer from respiratory health issues, and live in communities with high pollution, and have less access to resources such as safe park spaces or grocery stores. Geographic location is such an important indicator of health that a person who lives in Watts can expect to live 12 years less than a person who lives in Brentwood.

Health is often attributed to individual choices: eating fresh fruits and vegetables, avoiding unhealthy choices such as smoking, and doing regular exercise, and getting the proper medical care. For many people, particularly those with limited financial resources, a healthy lifestyle is not a matter of choice, but rather an issue of access and opportunity. There is an increased awareness that where people live, and the opportunities they can access, influences their health.

Map displaying the disparity in the number of grocery stores in various L.A. neighborhoods | More at healthyplan.laAs part of a new public health initiative, the Department of City Planning issued a Health Atlas that examines over 100 health issues in Los Angeles. The report found that communities like South Los Angeles have less than an acre of park space per 1,000 residents, limiting their opportunities to participate in physical activity in safe public spaces. Less than 10 percent of adults in South Los Angeles eat the recommended daily serving of five fruits and vegetables, compared to more than 22 percent of residents in West Los Angeles, pointing to the need to increase healthy options in the city's most underserved neighborhoods. The economic hardship and lack of workforce and educational resources that is prevalent in some of the city's poorest communities is associated with worse health outcomes, which has prompted the City of Los Angeles to look at how it can help create communities where the healthy choice is the easy choice.

The Plan for a Healthy Los Angeles is an effort of the Department of City Planning to elevate health as a priority in the city's future growth and development. The draft is now available for public review until May 13 and includes a series of policies that will help guide the city toward a healthier future, which include:

  • Increasing access to health-promoting goods and services, such as affordable and healthy food, by incentivizing economic development in underserved communities in the city.
  • Ensuring that Angelenos have equitable access to parks and open space.
  • Encouraging innovative solutions to improve food access, including the promotion of urban agriculture and increasing the number of healthy food vendors.
  • Providing Angelenos with the educational tools and workforce development opportunities to prepare for the jobs of the future that will provide the financial resources needed to make healthy lifestyle choices.
  • Creating a climate-resilient city that protects every Angeleno from the public health effects of climate change.
  • Improving public safety so that every Angeleno feels safe participating in health-promoting activities in their neighborhood.

The Plan for a Healthy Los Angeles elevates existing health-related programs and policies in the General Plan, commonly known as the city's planning constitution. The new programs and policies in the Plan for a Healthy Los Angeles will fill in the gaps in areas that aren't currently addressed by the General Plan, including equitable access to park space, increasing access to educational and workforce development opportunities, creating access to healthy and affordable food, and establishing healthy building and design guidelines, among others. As Los Angeles prepares for the urban challenges of the 21st century, health is an important goal to ensure that every Angeleno has the opportunity to thrive.

Charts depicting health conditions in South L.A. | More at healthyplan.la

The Plan for a Healthy Los Angeles will also serve as a tool to leverage the great work that is already happening on the ground to improve community health. The project has been advised by a Community Advisory Committee, which has given suggestions on the ways that city policies can support the innovative work that community based organizations are doing in some of the city's most underserved communities.

After May 13, the draft Plan for a Healthy Los Angeles will be revised based on feedback received during the 90-day public comment period, and there is still time to provide feedback. The Plan will then be reviewed by the Planning Commission, City Council, and Mayor before it is adopted as part of the city's General Plan.

For updates on the upcoming milestones, please check the project's website, Facebook, and Twitter pages. There is a little under a month left to help us develop a roadmap to health for the City of Los Angeles.

What's your vision for a healthy L.A.? Please join us in the conversation about what is needed to create a healthy Los Angeles.

About the Author

Matt Raimi is Principal at Raimi + Associates, a planning firm working with the Los Angeles Department of City Planning to complete the Plan for a Healthy Los Angeles. 
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