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Redding CA Well-Being

As New York Times best-selling author Tom Rath notes in his book Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements, well-being is “far more than health and wealth—it’s the combination of many aspects of life. Well-being is about the interaction between physical health, finding your daily work and experiences fulfilling, having strong social relationships and access to the resources you need, feeling financially secure, and being a part of a true community.”

Quite a bit has been reportedly been said by our mayor  and, in response by the Record Searchlight about the extremely low ranking of the City of Redding in the 2013 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. This is the sixth year Gallup-Healthways has been doing this so the results should not have been surprising for locals. Reactions have been either defensive or intentionally positive, rather than offering solutions and corrective change.

Here are two implications I have not  yet heard mentioned:

  • Leadership – “City leadership, be it government, business, faith-based, community-based, or education — plays a critical role in the success or failure of a city to embrace and sustain a culture of well-being.”
  • Tangible Policies – “There are tangible policies that communities can adopt to actively cultivate and improve residents’ well-being,” said Dan Buettner, National Geographic Fellow and founder of Blue Zones LLC. “Policies that nudge people into healthy activities — where it is easy to walk to the store, bike to a friend’s house, get access to fresh produce, and be surrounded by healthy-minded, supportive friends — are ones that make the healthy choice, the easy choice. Sustained transformation depends on building an environment and establishing social policies that support and reinforce these programs.”

Regarding policies, the Gallup-Healthways report notes:

“Many innovative communities are actively setting up public and private interventions to create environments that promote sustainable and measurable well-being improvement. Public infrastructure investments such as bike lanes, sidewalks, and better access to public transportation support the incorporation of more physical activity in daily life… Mobile farmers markets improve access to fresh produce and encourage healthy eating. Local events, like learning and discussion groups, are designed to give residents opportunities for personal growth, and foster social well-being and a sense of true community. These are just some examples of policies that community leaders can—and are— championing to create sustainable and systemic behavior change and ultimately, higher well-being.” [italics are mine]

Since this is an election year for three City Council positions, the voting public should evaluate the candidates partially on their responses to these challenges. They need to tell us how, if elected, they will embrace and sustain a “culture of well-being” and what their tangible policy changes will be.

Embracing the agendas of Shasta Living Streets and Healthy Shasta would be a good start.

I’m also hopeful that the community as a whole and not just those up for election this year will see this as a rallying point to define vision and priorities for Redding. I am reminded from Peter Block’s book Community: The Structure of Belonging that auathentic citizenship is “to hold ourselves accountable for the well-being of the larger community and to choose to own and exercise power rather than defer or delegate it to others.”

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