6. Health-Supporting Communities

Support the health and well-being of everyone, accounting for the diverse ways by which humans cook, eat, sleep, socialize, dress, pray, recreate, exercise, etc. and for the needs of people of all ages, races, abilities, ethnic backgrounds, and socio-economic status.

Although Minnesota is one of the healthiest states in the nation, it also has some of the widest health disparities between people of color and whites. In terms of poor or fair health for example, American Indians and Hispanics are greatly affected:

  • American Indian:29%
  • Hispanic:27%
  • Black:16%
  • Asian:10%
  • White:11%

The Minnesota Eliminating Health Disparities Initiative identifies environmental factors, including living conditions, among the reasons associated with differences in health. Understanding the role of the built environment in supporting or suppressing health and well-being is instrumental to efforts to eliminate health disparities.

Best Practices

The 54-acre Heart of the City is a mixed-use, pedestrian friendly downtown area for Burnsville. Recognizing the residents’ desire for a more integrated, active-living lifestyle, Burnsville used smart growth principles to create an “urban setting in a suburban environment” that promotes economic prosperity, social equity, and environmental sustainability. The plan calls for 20% of the housing built to be affordable for diverse housing options, utilizes ground floor retail and office space, includes a large central park for gathering and recreation, and brings arts and cultural opportunities to the downtown core through a performing arts center. “That 54-acre site in the city only made $246,000 in property taxes,” reflects Mayor Elizabeth B. Kautz. “Today, it makes over a million.” By developing a compact, walkable downtown core, Burnsville was able to expand its economic opportunities, while protecting residents’ health and the environment.

Heart of the City

Burnsville, Minnesota

Photo credit: http://www.burnsville.org/Facilities/Facility/Details/30

Rec on the Go is a mobile recreational activities program that offers crafts, games, literacy projects, science experiences, and snacks for children and teens in low-income areas of Brooklyn Park. The summer programming schedule typically runs four days a week from mid-June to mid-August in many locations across the city, from parks to apartment complexes. The program was created to increase access to parks and recreational facilities. A national study found that children living closer to recreational programs and parks had much lower rates of obesity than children who lived further away. However, the study also found that low-income neighborhoods and communities of color have fewer parks and recreational facilities than more affluent, white neighborhoods (Wen, Zhang, Harris, Holt, & Croft, 2013). Rec on the Go bridges this divide, providing opportunities for youth to learn and engage.

Rec on the Go

Brooklyn Park, Minnesota

Photo credit: https://www.brooklynpark.org/recreation-and-parks/recreation-on-the-go/

Brooklyn Center’s Health Resource Center offers free and low-cost medical, dental, vision, and mental health services to youth of Brooklyn Center Schools and the community ages 0-19. The 2,300-square-foot clinic is located within Brooklyn Center High School, built in former classrooms, paid for through donations, and supported by Park Nicollet and Pohlad Family foundations. Close to 57.5% of residents in Brooklyn Center are people of color, who may be uninsured and underinsured. Low-income communities with racial and ethnic minorities often face unmet health needs and inadequate health care resources and School Based Health Centers have been documented as able to reach this population (Brindis, Klein, Schlitt, Santelli, Juszczak, & Nystrom, 2003). A health clinic in a high school provides these students with access to health professionals and medical, dental, eye, and mental health care.

High School Health Clinic

Brooklyn Center, Minnesota

Photo credit: https://www.brooklyncenterschools.org/