Augusta Free Press

Report: Local governments play critical role in achieving public health goals

Healthy communities don’t just happen. They are created by a multitude of social, economic, environmental, and behavioral factors. And local governments play a critical role in shaping a community’s public health, according to a new report released by ICMA, the International City/County Management Association.

Improving Quality of Life: The Effect of Aligning Local Service Delivery and Public Health Goals” advances the conversation about viewing and managing local government infrastructure, transportation systems, water and sanitation, land use and planning, and other services as part of broader efforts to contribute to a healthy environment and support healthy lifestyles. The report discusses how the services that general local governments provide place them in a leadership position in terms of public health responsibility. It also considers new opportunities for local government collaboration, public engagement and education, decision making, and governance.

“At a time when many jurisdictions are experiencing significant population change, uneven economic growth, and increases in demands on local services, it is important that community health considerations are woven into all local programs and policies to improve the quality of life of all residents,” says Joshua Franzel, Ph.D., ICMA and the Center for State and Local Government Excellence, who co-authored the report.

Local leaders increasingly are recognizing that healthy communities have established a culture that is supportive of healthy choices, and that to better shape community health in an increasingly complex environment, jurisdictions must implement innovative service delivery approaches, collaboration, and partnerships.

“Our efforts to improve public health are evolving, which will require greater collaboration, public engagement, and focus on prevention,” adds report co-author Paula Sanford, Ph.D., University of Georgia, Carl Vinson Institute of Government. “Local governments can serve as the linchpin as we address new health crises like combatting chronic diseases.”

Through a review of existing research, a series of expert interviews, and analysis of global examples, “Improving Quality of Life” examines the management of more traditional assets and services (i.e., public safety, water and water treatment, and local sanitation) through a health-oriented lens, while also exploring new opportunities to improve resident health.

Key report findings include

A downloadable copy of the report is available through the Local Government Knowledge Network, a partnership between ICMA, Arizona State University, and the Alliance for Innovation.