CityHealth, a nonprofit that evaluates local health priorities of the country’s largest cities, recently awarded the cities with gold stars for enacting public health policies that improve overall wellbeing for residents.
For the last three years CityHealth has been tracking attempts at improving public health in the 40 most populous cities in the country. They track nine different policies: earned sick leave, high-quality accessible pre-kindergarten, affordable housing, complete streets, safe alcohol sales, curbing tobacco use, smoke-free indoor air, food safety and restaurant inspection, and healthy food procurement. Five or more gold-rated policies means an overall gold-star rating.
“Are they able to access high quality nutritious food, if someone is sick can they stay home from work or take care of kids who are sick, are you being protected – if you’re a young kid – from the dangers of tobacco,” CityHealth President Shelley Hearne said.
CityHealth awards medals ranging from bronze to gold. San Antonio and Dallas are two of eight cities nationwide wide to earn gold. They join Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Seattle.
Both Dallas and San Antonio ranked high on recently enacted paid sick leave policies, pre-K programs, smoke-free indoor air and streets. Over the last five years, San Antonio has put emphasis in several of these areas. Kathy Shields is San Antonio MetroHealth’s interim assistant director for Community Health.
“These are areas that health departments across the country and cities across the country should be tackling if they want to see improved health,” Shields said.
CityHealth, though, says there are areas for San Antonio and Dallas that need improvement. San Antonio is in the first year of its affordable housing plan and received no medal for that category. Dallas received no medal in healthy food procurement.
Dr. Philip Huang is the director of Dallas County Health and Human Services, he says there’s been a push to identify accessibility to healthy food.
“The other thing with healthy food access -- and this gets into some of the basic determinants,” Huang said, “the basic needs that we need to address in the long term to address some of these disparities. South Dallas, Southeast Dallas need to have the same access to healthy foods that other parts of the community have."
Each of Texas’ major cities were ranked. Austin, Houston and Fort Worth all received bronze medals for their health policies. El Paso did not receive a medal.