The places that we live, work, pray and play are critical to supporting the overall health of our kids. Access to healthy foods and health services and our neighborhoods are significant contributors to the health of kids. The way our buildings, streets and open spaces are built can support healthy habits and help families, neighbors and friends build healthy relationships. National studies demonstrate that healthy childhood development is supported by having green spaces, walkable and bikeable infrastructure like sidewalks and bike lanes, access to healthy foods, transportation and health services and safe supportive housing.
Despite all the benefits of a healthy and equitable community, not all kids have access to the safe and supportive environments they need to succeed. In addition to lack of healthy foods and built environments, poverty, structural racism, community violence and toxic exposure to environmental hazards (e.g. Brownfields, lead) in the places kids live all play a role in triggering toxic stress in children and adults. Toxic stress negatively impacts a child’s brain structure and hampers their ability to develop healthy skills that will help them thrive. Without intervention to promote healthy places and relationships, toxic stress can lead to poor health outcomes for kids in the future.
The Healthi Kids Coalition believes that, in order to support whole child health and development, we must advance equitable communities for all kids. Every child must have a safe and supportive environment where that child can eat healthy, be active, play and just be a kid. Advancing equitable communities across the region means that we are supporting policies, programs and infrastructure that eliminate the impact of toxic stress in communities impacted by structural racism, poverty and violence. Our advocacy agenda brings to the forefront the notion that we must transform our community spaces to support the health of the whole child. We do this by advocating for change that:
- Advances built environment changes to ensure every family has healthy, supportive infrastructure in their neighborhoods, regardless of zip code
- Expands opportunities for healthy food and food education in homes and neighborhoods
- Supports community efforts to eliminate the impacts of hazardous environmental exposures on children and families and
- Reduces the impact of crime and safety concerns on individual and community well-being.