Sustainable Cities, Policies and Healthy Cities
By now, there is a robust literature examining the wide array of public policies and programs that cities pursue in order to try to become more sustainable. Whether the focus of such programs is explicitly on improving the biophysical environment, climate protection and adaptation, energy efficiency, land use regulation, bicycle ridership, expanded mass transit, open space, or any other targets, such programs often carry with them an expectation that these will contribute to improved public health outcomes. While there is significant attention to asserting that such a relationship exists, or ought to exist, there have been no efforts to explicitly and empirically link city policies to public health outcomes. This paper tackles this issue head-on, investigating the extent to which US cities that have the most aggressive sustainability initiatives exhibit better public health outcomes than cities with less aggressive sustainability initiatives. Using US Census, public health, and original sustainable policy data from the 55 largest cities in the US, this paper presents evidence concerning the strength of this relationship, discusses the foundations for the relationship, and provides a discussion of the implications for urban planning, sustainability policies and for improved health outcomes.
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