The City as Health Policy interrogates how city policies and infrastructure work to promote or undermine health and well-being, especially when those policies are ostensibly at some remove from health.
Cities affect health through multiple pathways, but more often than not, decision-making remains siloed in municipal departments. Without conscious attention to the broader reach policies have on residents, cities are likely to perpetuate, rather than redress racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic health inequalities. Progressive framings of population health—Health in All Policies, Culture of Health—take as their starting point how to make good health not only possible, but inevitable. City policies and infrastructure can be designed to integrate health into the physical and social environment. Any policy that affects how people live in and experience the urban environment is health policy.
Established determinants of health include: education, income, poverty, employment, housing conditions, power, prestige, social support, and access to health care. Individuals who have more of some of these things, and less of the others are poised to be in better health. But how do cities make it more or less likely for individuals to have access to and benefit from social and economic resources? The City as Health Policy conference examines how urban contexts translate resources into health and well-being.
Where are cities succeeding in making it possible for all residents to enjoy urban spaces? What happens when city policies foster stress and exclusion? When do urban transformations perpetuate legacies of inequality rather than upending them? Why is it challenging to weave health impact into all city policies? Who needs to participate in designing health-promoting cities? What should we consider to be a sustainable city? How do residents negotiate through, and innovate in day-to-day life in cities where resources are scarce?
The City as Health Policy conference will engage these questions with panels on the following topics:
Food environment policies are health policies. At first blush, this is perhaps one of the easier connections to make between broader city policies and health.
In some cities, community leaders and legislators have sought to redress health inequalities by targeting the restaurant landscape. For example, in 2008, citing obesity rates and a heavy saturation of fast food restaurants in Black and Latino neighborhoods, the Los Angeles City Council enacted an ordinance forbidding new fast food outlets.
Policymakers posited that prohibiting additional restaurants might open up a greater diversity of food retailers, thereby promoting healthy dietary choices. But thinking capaciously about food environments reveals a number of pathways to health.
Education is a powerful health determinant, and food environments can shape whether children are equipped for schooling. Students who are hungry, or who live in food insecure environments are not optimally positioned to learn.
Food policies can also be vehicles for progressive employment opportunities, itself an important socioeconomic health determinant. Finally, food policies can develop human capital: farmers markets provide more than a variety of fresh produce—they are also public spaces that foster social interaction.
Transportation policies are health policies. Cities that create and maintain streets scaled for people rather than cars alone; and that promote direct, safe, and attractive walking, promote health.
Pedestrian-scaled streets not only promote physical activity, but they convey to city residents that the streets are theirs. Infrastructure that encourages the routine use of bicycles across age, gender, and ability enable mobility for residents from a diversity of backgrounds.
Youth can exercise independence along with their bodies, can learn to navigate their urban environment at an early age, and can start the school day with physical activity and social interaction. Rich mass transit networks reduce pollution and open up employment centers and other opportunities.
In many U.S. cities, sprawling land use makes automobiles a necessity to navigate the city. For those who are unable to own or drive a car, cities without diversity in transportation planning make navigating urban space an unnecessary challenge.
And when police selectively target bicyclists for violations and ticketing (and particularly when those cyclists are disproportionately African American, as is the case in Tampa, FL), transportation policy is not only health policy, but also law enforcement policy.
Law enforcement policies are health policies. When law enforcement is responsive to its constituents, and provides security and safety equitably, city residents have faith that their lives are in good hands.
But shootings of unarmed citizens, revenue-driven policing strategies, unconstitutional stops and searches of hundreds of thousands of city residents, and misconduct in a context of low accountability and transparency all undermine health.
Such policies and practices cause stress and trauma, reduce the state’s credibility and impede civic engagement, hamper an animated public life, and perpetuate racial and socioeconomic harms that extend beyond criminal justice.
In that regard, unjust policing could be seen as an environmental health hazard. Progressive environmental policies require hazardous industries to demonstrate safeguards for local communities, so that facility siting and operation does not cause harm. Might the same be asked of law enforcement practices?
Community development policies are health policies. In recent years, the cratering of the housing market, the dramatic decline in wealth among African American and Latino homeowners following disproportionate exposure to foreclosure, and activism for affordable housing have been prominent in public discourse.
Neighborhood change has also put into stark relief the tensions undergirding community and economic development. Dramatic increases in real estate prices, resident displacement, and the recasting of neighborhood resources for affluent newcomers have significantly altered community social fabrics.
Cultural and structural forces create multiple, and often opposing constraints on economic development, and messages about social exclusion and participation in civic society are writ in the built environment, often times explicitly.
To the extent that community and economic development fosters or hinders the citizenry’s ability to engage with external actors in order to leverage resources, promotes or reduces stress and social pain, builds or undermines wealth and financial security, and encourages or detracts from creativity and beauty in the urban landscape, these policies are health policies.
A visual exploration of The City as Health Policy at work across several New Jersey cities, including Newark, Paterson, Trenton, and Camden.
Ashley Atkinson has worked in the field of community gardening, urban greening, and vacant land reuse for 15 years. Her career began in her hometown, Flint, Michigan, where she co-founded the Flint Urban Gardening and Land Use Corporation and developed the Clean and Green program for the Genesee County Land Bank. In 2001 she moved to the City of Detroit to work with Detroit Summer, a program of the Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership and the Detroit Agriculture Network to develop urban agriculture opportunities for Detroiters of all ages. For a decade she served as the Director of Urban Agriculture and Openspace at The Greening of Detroit where she and her staff supported a growing network of urban gardens and operated multiple urban farms and nationally recognized programs.
Ashley currently serves as the Co-Director of Keep Growing Detroit, an urban agriculture focused organization that provides resources and support for more than 1,400 gardens and farms in Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park. For that last six years she has served as the sustainable agriculture representative of the Detroit Food Policy Council, an organization dedicated to promoting an equitable and robust local food system in Detroit through its work in community engagement, education, and public policy.
Ashley is a graduate of both Michigan State University and The University of Michigan where she studied International Development, Community Organization, and Environmental/Land Use Planning.
Holly Freishtat, Baltimore City’s first Food Policy Director, began her work with the City of Baltimore in 2010. Freishtat takes food access seriously and works city-wide with many government departments to align priorities and projects around improving the Baltimore City food environment. Recognizing that government can’t address food access alone, Freishtat uses a multi-sector perspective and engages with many agencies, nonprofits, community groups and stakeholders to dismantle policy barriers, facilitate new partnerships and leverage funding to implement innovative solutions to address food access issues in Baltimore.
Freishtat has spent over a decade working on food issues in a variety of contexts; experiences that have provided her with an understanding of the food system from the perspective of a nutritionist, an educator and a farmer. Across the country, she has led and worked on projects that include agricultural marketing, farm-to-school, farm-to-healthcare, and sustainable livestock production.
Freishtat has a Masters of Science from Tufts University in Food Policy and Applied Nutrition and was a Food and Society Policy Fellow in 2007-2009.
Joan Hopkins was born and raised in the North Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago. She is a certified carpenter and worked in carpentry, sales, and housekeeping before working for Windy City Harvest. She enrolled in the pilot Windy City Harvest class, joined the staff as a grower after graduating in 2007, and was promoted to her current position as the Windy City Harvest Corps Coordinator; previously, beginning in 2009, she ran the Vocational Rehabilitation Impact Center. A certified Roots of Success Instructor, Hopkins teaches the environmental literacy curriculum to all Windy City Harvest participants. As coordinator, she leads Crew Leaders and Harvest Corp Crew Members in farm tasks and still leads all Windy City Harvest Hoop House construction projects.
Norman Garrick is Associate Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Connecticut. Dr. Garrick is also an emeritus member of the national board of The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) and co-chair of CNU’s Transportation Task Force. He specializes in the planning and design of urban transportation systems, including transit, streets and highways, parking policy and bicycle and pedestrian facilities, especially as they relate to sustainability, placemaking and urban revitalization. His writings on sustainable transportation and urban planning, street and street network design, and parking policies have been widely disseminated both to an academic audience and to the wider public through outlets such as The Washington Post, The Atlantic CityLab, Planetizen, Better! Cities and Towns, The Denver Post and The Hartford Courant, and in a number of short videos from Streetfilms. In addition to his academic and research career, Dr. Garrick has worked as transportation consultant on numerous design charrettes, nationally and internationally, including urban revitalization projects with the Prince of Wales Foundation in Kingston, Jamaica and in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
He is a recipient of the Transportation Research Board’s Wootan Award for Best Paper in policy and organization and a Fulbright Fellowship to Kingston, Jamaica. Dr. Garrick has also been a visiting professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich; a lecturer in both MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning and Oxford University’s (UK) Masters of Sustainable Urban Planning Program.
Ralph Buehler, PhD is Associate Professor in Urban Affairs & Planning at Virginia Tech in Alexandria, Virginia, USA. Most of his research has an international comparative perspective, contrasting transport and land-use policies, transport systems, and travel behavior in Western Europe and North America. He is the author or coauthor of over 45 refereed articles in academic journals, the book City Cycling (MIT Press), as well as reports to federal and local governments, NGOs, and for profit industry organizations.
Keshia Pollack, PhD, MPH, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH). Dr. Pollack’s research uses injury epidemiology and health impact assessments (HIA) to advance policies that create safe and healthy environments where people live, work, play, and travel. Dr. Pollack is the former Interim Director of the Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, where she remains a Consultant. Dr. Pollack also serves as the Associate Director of Training and Education for the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, Deputy Director for the Institute for Health and Social Policy, and Director of the PhD Concentration in Health and Public Policy. Dr. Pollack holds degrees from Tufts University (BA, Sociology and Community Health), Yale School of Public Health (MPH, Chronic Disease Epidemiology), and Johns Hopkins University (PhD, Health and Public Policy). Prior to joining the JHSPH faculty, Dr. Pollack completed a postdoctoral fellowship in evaluation at the University of Pennsylvania and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Jonathan Smith became Associate Dean of Experiential and Clinical Programs at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law in 2015. Prior to joining the School of Law, he was the Chief of the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice. During his four and a half year tenure, the Section completed 18 investigations of civil rights violations by law enforcement, including the civil investigation of the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting.
Mr. Smith has an extensive career in civil legal services prior to his government services. He was the executive director of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, the Public Justice Center in Baltimore, Maryland, and the D.C. Prisoners’ Legal Services Project. In each of these positions, in addition to providing program leadership, he has handled individual, class action and impact litigation, engaged in legislative advocacy and in institutional reform efforts. He started his career as an associate to Virginia civil rights lawyer Victor Glasberg.
Mr. Smith served for five years on the District of Columbia Access to Justice Commission. He is also a member of the American Law Institute and the DC Bar Judicial Evaluation Committee. He is the recipient of several awards, including the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law Advocate for Justice Award, the Washington Council of Lawyers President’s Award, the United States Attorney General’s John Marshall Award, and the Executive Office of United States Attorneys Director’s Award.
Nahal Zamani is an Advocacy Program Manager at the Center for Constitutional Rights, where she directs CCR’s advocacy and campaigns in the U.S. Nahal’s current advocacy portfolio includes challenging the NYPD’s abusive stop and frisk practices and other discriminatory policing practices, the persecution and criminalization of LGBTQ communities, and economic injustice. Nahal advocates regularly on these issues before elected officials and the United Nations and co-chairs the Executive Committee of the Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) campaign in NYC.
Nahal lectures extensively on human rights advocacy, strategies for coalition-building and campaign development, and the application of a human rights framework to address social justice issues in the U.S. Before joining CCR, she led human rights advocacy and campaigns at the American Civil Liberties Union and worked with the International Rescue Committee’s New York resettlement office and at Animédia in France. Nahal holds an M.A. in Human Rights from Columbia University, where she focused on documenting the stressful impact of economic and cultural rights violations, and a B.A. from Rutgers University.
Craig B. Futterman is a Clinical Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School. He founded and has served as the Director of the Civil Rights and Police Accountability Project of the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic since 2000. Before his appointment to the Law Faculty, Professor Futterman was a Lecturer in Law and Director of Public Interest Programs at Stanford Law School. He previously joined Futterman & Howard, Chtd., a boutique law firm concentrating in complex federal litigation. There, Prof. Futterman specialized in civil rights and constitutional matters, with a special focus on racial discrimination, education, and police brutality. Before that, he served as a trial attorney in the Juvenile Division of the Cook County Public Defender’s Office.
Mr. Futterman received his J.D. from Stanford Law School and graduated with the highest distinction from Northwestern University with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Economics.
Kathe Newman is an Associate Professor in the Urban Planning and Policy Development Program at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy and Director of the Ralph W. Voorhees Center for Civic Engagement. Dr. Newman holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the Graduate School and University Center at the City University of New York. Her research interests include urban political economy and political theory, community based research, urban redevelopment, gentrification, foreclosure, and community economic development. Dr. Newman has published articles in Urban Studies, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Urban Geography, Urban Affairs Review, Urban Geography, Shelterforce, Progress in Human Geography, Housing Studies, GeoJournal, and Environment and Planning A.
Stacey Sutton is an Assistant Professor of Urban Planning and Policy in the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her research focuses on community economic development, neighborhood change, racial stratification and disparate impact of place-based policy. Stacey’s research interests come together in her forthcoming book, “Buy Black: Race, Retail and the Politics of Neighborhood Business Survival,” in which she draws on the experiences of Black small business-owners located in Fort Greene/ Clinton Hill to understand processes of neighborhood change and various ways the local city policy affects small businesses. Specifically shop closure and the erasure of an enclave previously known as “Black Bohemia.”
Daniel D’Oca is Principal and co-founder of the New York City-based architecture, planning, and research firm Interboro Partners, and Associate Professor in Practice at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. With Interboro, Daniel has won many awards for Interboro’s portfolio of participatory design projects, including the MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program, the Architectural League’s Emerging Voices Award, and the New Practices Award from the AIA New York Chapter. Most recently, Interboro was one of ten firms selected by the U.S. department of Housing and Urban Development to work on its pioneering "Rebuild by Design" initiative. Interboro’s book The Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion is an encyclopedia about accessibility and the built environment that will be published by Actar in early 2016.
Jamaican-born Brooklyn-based documentary photographer Ruddy Roye interrogates the invisible stories of social injustice. Using Instagram as a visual platform, Roye hopes to change the conversation surrounding race, poverty and identity. Roye has amassed more than 250,000 Instagram followers and has been a freelance photojournalist for the Associated Press, The New York Times, Ebony Magazine, Jet Magazine and Vogue. He is also a regular contributor to @everydayusa, @everydayjamaica, and guest contributor to @afropunk and @newyorkmag since 2006.
Camara Phyllis Jones MD, MPH, PhD is a family physician and epidemiologist whose work focuses on the impact of racism on the health and well-being of the nation. She seeks to broaden the national health debate to include not only universal access to high quality health care but also attention to the social determinants of health (including poverty) and the social determinants of equity (including racism). As a methodologist, she has developed new ways for comparing full distributions of data in order to investigate population-level risk factors and propose population-level interventions. As a teacher, her allegories on “race” and racism illuminate topics that are otherwise difficult for many Americans to understand or discuss.
Jones is the president of the American Public Health Association and a member of the National Board of Public Health Examiners. She was an assistant professor at the Harvard School of Public Health from 1994 to 2000, and research director on social determinants of health and equity within the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2000 to 2010. She is currently a senior fellow at the Satcher Health Leadership Institute and the Cardiovascular Research Institute, Morehouse School of Medicine.
Dr. Janice Johnson Dias is an Associate Professor of Sociology and a Graduate Faculty in the Department of Criminal Justice at John Jay College. Johnson Dias holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from Temple University; she completed her postdoctoral study at the University of Michigan, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, National Poverty Center. Her research focuses on impoverished mothers and children. In addition to her academic work, Johnson Dias has extensive experience working with, evaluating and building collaborations among social service and community organizations. Her most recent work in Long Island with Stony Brook University and community stakeholders on issues of black girls’ mental, sexual and physical health earned the collaborative a special Congressional honor. Johnson Dias also serves as the President of GrassROOTS Community Foundation, a national pubic health and social action organization that supports, develops, and scales community-driven solutions to the health challenges facing women and girls living in poverty. Johnson Dias has been described as a force of nature.
Johnson Dias is a scholar-activist whose life’s work is developing research-informed, innovative solutions to the challenges facing the urban poor, particularly underserved black mothers and their children. She thinks about, researches, devises and enacts strategies for using urban spaces to foster growth and development rather than stagnation and decline.
With business partner Tarik “Black Thought” Trotter of the Grammy-award winning group The Roots and “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” and a cadre of social scientists, community organizers, and artists, GrassROOTS has garnered the attention of the White House and funding support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Barnabas Health System, The Health Care Foundation of New Jersey, and GlaxoSmithKline for their community health programs in Philadelphia, Greensboro, and Newark, serving over 300 people. In fact, Janice was among a select group of community leaders invited to First Lady Michelle Obama’s re-launch of her “Let’s Move” initiative.
In her talks, Janice uses humor to raise awareness and demonstrate the interconnection between poverty and health and its impact on children. Drawing on her multiple published peer-reviewed academic papers on health, women and poverty, Janice delivers academic-driven data in a relatable, accessible way, engaging audiences while informing also them. Janice has spoken to a wide range of organizations, including many colleges and health institutions across the United States, New York Academy of Health, New York Department Health and Hygiene, and continues to speak about the need to invest in urban youth.
A former U.S. Army Reservist with a doctorate in sociology Johnson Dias has been honored by Zeta Phi Beta as one of their “Women of the Year,” Janice’s justice work and community research story has been spotlighted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and other civic organizations, The Philadelphia Inquirer, CBS News.
Zaire Z. Dinzey-Flores is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Latino & Hispanic Caribbean Studies at Rutgers University. Her research focuses on understanding how the urban built environment mediates community life and race, class, and social inequality. Her book, Locked In, Locked Out: Gated Communities in a Puerto Rican City (University Of Pennsylvania Press: 2013), winner of the 2014 Robert E. Park for best book in urban and community sociology, investigates race and class inequality as negotiated through and codified in the architecture and community gates of public housing and private subdivisions. She is working on a few projects focusing on housing and neighborhood design in the United States and the Caribbean. Among them, is an examination of race and class distinctions in the production of urban residential spaces in the real estate market. She received a Ph.D. in Public Policy and Sociology and a Masters in Urban Planning from the University of Michigan, a M.A. in Sociology from Stanford University, and a B.A. in Sociology from Harvard University.
Hasan Kwame Jeffries was born in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, New York. After graduating from Midwood High School in 1990, he headed south, enrolling at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, the nation’s leading institution for educating African American men. While matriculating at Morehouse, he was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa honor society and initiated into the Pi Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.
Hasan graduated summa cum laude from Morehouse with a BA in history in 1994. That same year, he left the New South for the Old, moving to Durham, North Carolina, and enrolling at Duke University, where he earned a MA in American history in 1997, and a PhD in American history with a specialization in African American history in 2002.
While completing his graduate work, he lived periodically in Montgomery, Alabama, the birthplace of the modern the civil rights movement. In 2002, he relocated to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where he served as the Bankhead Fellow in the history department at the University of Alabama. He spent one year at Alabama, teaching American history and African American history.
After time well spent in the “Heart of Dixie,” Hasan crossed the Ohio River and joined the faculty at The Ohio State University in the history department. Since arriving at Ohio State, Hasan has taught graduate and undergraduate seminars on the Civil Rights and Black Power Movement, and surveys in African American and American history.
He has received several fellowships in support of his research, including a Ford Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellowship. He has also regularly shared his expert knowledge of African American history and contemporary black politics with the general public through lectures, teacher workshops, and frequent media appearances.
In 2009, Hasan published his first book, Bloody Lowndes: Civil Rights and Black Power in Alabama’s Black Belt (NYU Press). Bloody Lowndes tells the remarkable story of the ordinary people and college age organizers from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) who ushered in the Black Power era by transforming rural Lowndes County, Alabama from a citadel of violent white supremacy into the center of southern black militancy. They achieved this extraordinary feat by creating the Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO), an all-black, independent, political party that was also the original Black Panther Party. Bloody Lowndes has been praised as “the book historians of the black freedom movement have been waiting for,” and as “an invaluable contribution to understanding current and future ‘conversations’ on race and politics.”
His current book project, entitled Stealing Home: Ebbets Field and Black Working Class Life in Post-Civil Rights New York, explores the struggle of working class African Americans to secure and enjoy their freedom rights, from the height of the civil rights era through the present, by examining the experiences of the residents of Ebbets Field Apartments, an expansive, 1,200 unit, affordable housing complex built in 1962 on the site of old Ebbets Field, the former home of Major League Baseball’s Brooklyn Dodgers.
Hasan has worked on several public history projects. Most recently, he served as the lead historian and primary script writer for the five-year, $25 million renovation of the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, the site of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Hasan travels frequently to the South to visit friends, and returns often to Brooklyn to visit family.
A. K. Sandoval-Strausz is an Associate Professor of United States History and the Associate Chair of the Department of History at the University of New Mexico. This year, he is a Distinguished Fellow at the Princeton-Mellon Initiative in Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities.
He specializes in the social and cultural history of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century United States. His first book, Hotel: An American History (Yale University Press, 2007), won the American Historical Association-Pacific Coast Branch Book Award and was named a Best Book of 2007 by Library Journal. His book reviews and interviews have been featured in The New York Times, The Economist, and National Public Radio.
His current project, “Latino Landscapes," was one of the 36 recepients chosen by the National Endowment for the Humanities' new 'Public Scholar' program, an initiative designed to promote the publication of scholarly nonfiction books for the general audience.
Dr. Sandoval-Strausz received his B.A. in History from Columbia University and his M.A. and Ph.D in History from the University of Chicago.
Organized by Naa Oyo A. Kwate, The City as Health Policy is hosted by The Center for Race and Ethnicity (CRE) at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. The CRE’s mission is to offer the Rutgers community a place for the interdisciplinary engagement of issues of race and ethnicity within the state, the region and the world. The Center organizes collective conversations on issues ranging from important historical moments to contemporary culture and public policy. We do so by leading scholarly roundtables, lectures, workshops, film screenings, and conferences; and by co-sponsoring the same in other units around the university. Visit our website to learn more.
For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are working with others to build a national Culture of Health enabling everyone in America to live longer, healthier lives. For more information, visit rwjf.org. Follow the Foundation on Twitter at rwjf.org/twitter or on Facebook at rwjf.org/facebook.
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