One of Washington, DC’s most important resources is the health of its residents, and DC is consistently ranked at the top of the country’s healthiest and fittest cities. Yet significant disparities in health exist along the lines of race, income, and geography. For example, residents in Ward 8 are four times as likely to have diabetes as compared to residents in other wards in the city, and Black residents are almost 2.5 times more likely to have heart disease than White residents. Depending on which Ward you live in, your life expectancy can vary by up to 10 years. Further, many District residents suffer from the negative effects of air pollution, lack safe places to exercise, and are disproportionately at risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Climate impacts, like asthma and heat-related injuries, compound these issues and often fall disproportionally and unfairly on low-income populations.
Sustaining a healthy way of life means thinking beyond hospitals and even individual behaviors as the main sources of our community’s well-being. Good health for ourselves and our families starts in our homes, schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, and communities. Sustainable DC 2.0 builds upon the District’s previous planning work, including DC Healthy People 2020, the Comprehensive Plan, the Health Systems Plan, Age Friendly DC, and the Health Equity Report, all of which are clear about the connection between health and having accessible, safe places to work, play, and move. To effectively address health disparities among populations, we must focus on factors like education, employment, income, housing, transportation, the food environment, preventative medical care, the outdoor environment, and community safety. Differences in factors across the city, including racial and economic segregation result in dramatic differences in life expectancy. By pinpointing actions to address these drivers, we have an opportunity to alleviate differences in health outcomes and achieve greater health equity for all residents.
Sustainable DC 2.0’s actions on health have real-world benefits for the District at all levels:
Individual: Actions in this section focus on making the healthy choice the easy choice for all District residents, regardless of where they live, learn, work, or play. While recognizing that the choices we make are shaped by the choices we have, individuals have an important part to play through daily choices that are health promoting for themselves, as well as the wider community, such as how to get to work and whether to spend time outdoors.
Neighborhood: Growing an inclusive city means creating access to opportunity in all neighborhoods, including safe and welcoming places for outdoor recreation, as well as leveraging shared social responsibilities to address inequities.
District: All residents should have the opportunity to make healthy and informed choices—including the ability to live active lifestyles—in neighborhoods where preventable health risks are eliminated.
Sustainable DC Health Goals
The Sustainable DC 2.0 goals are to:
- Provide residents with resources to achieve healthy, active lifestyles, regardless of income, ability, employment, or neighborhood.
- Improve population health by systematically addressing the link between community health and place, including where we are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age.
Where We Are
The Office of Planning’s amended Comprehensive Plan makes a direct link between land use and the social determinants of health. Further, the District’s Chief Resilience Officer coordinates resiliency efforts; the Resilient DC framework includes health and wellbeing as one of its four pillars. In addition, DC Health’s Office of Health Equity continues to build multi-sector collaborations and promote Health in all Policies, leverage community-based participatory research, and strive for health equity practice change.
The Health goals also directly connect to goals in Built Environment, Nature, Transportation, Climate, Education, and Food.
Read the entire Health section below, or read the whole plan here.
Go even deeper with more detailed plans on Health Equity or Resilient DC.
Want to volunteer with SDC as we work to improve community health? Find out how here.
xlvii: District of Columbia Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey, 2015, as cited in Sustainable DC 2.0