Angela Glover Blackwell
PolicyLink executive

Angela Glover Blackwell

Angela Glover Blackwell is the founder and chief executive officer of PolicyLink, a national research and action institute for economic and social equity.

Start Thinking Outside the Doctor's Office

President Obama's call for "a health-care system that works for all of us" is a good start -- but only a start. The health-care debate can no longer be dominated by industry voices and a misguided belief that policies affecting our health begin and end at the doctor's office door. Yes, we must broaden access to everyone and ensure doctors and hospitals set up shop in low-income communities. Yes, we must make health care cheaper and break the cycle of low-paying jobs having the worst health care (if any at all). And, yes, we must develop a smarter, more equitable way of delivering actual care in hospitals and clinics.

But we must also think much bigger. We must bake in a concern for health into all public policies. The connection between our health and our local environment (our housing, parks, air, et al) has never been more clear. Clean, green public transit projects mean cleaner air and less asthma. Safe, accessible parks mean more exercise and lower obesity and diabetes rates. More fresh food choices at school and around the corner mean fewer low-income children will be obese.

A focus on preventative health care is crucial, but it is also only one of the ways we must build a stronger, healthier foundation for all Americans. For instance, a recent report my organization did with UCLA and the California Center for Public Health Advocacy showed that people who live in neighborhoods with far more fast-food restaurants than fresh-food stores are at significantly higher risk for obesity and diabetes. It should come as no surprise the places with the worst "food environments" were low-income communities and communities of color. People's health risks were higher just because of where they could afford to live.

Our address -- where we live -- has an enormous impact on our health. Real health reform in this country is about far more than just Medicare reimbursements and digital record-keeping. We know President Obama gets this. Let's see the details in health reform demonstrate it.

By Angela Glover Blackwell  |  June 17, 2009; 9:37 AM ET  | Category:  Health Care Reform , Prevention Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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While improving "health care" quality and access is essential, our nation will not improve health and reduce costs in a meaningful and sustainable way without considering what is making so many of us sick in the first place. We need greater collective awareness -- and participation -- to make a difference.

This is the work of Communities of Health ( in a growing number of communities around the country. The approach convenes all stakeholders -- citizens, business, government, education, health and other sectors -- in a collaborative dialogue to uncover and address social and environmental factors that are the primary determinants of health in the places we live and work.

We applaud the Commission for its work, and call on all leaders to improve community conditions that determine health.

Rick Brush, Co-Founder

Posted by: rickbrush | June 22, 2009 10:59 AM
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