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How Mayors Can Help Create Healthier Communities


Cities are faced with many challenges, and mayors confront them daily. Some of these daily challenges include health disparities and income inequality, as well as the trials that come from managing a city’s daily functions. However, mayors are in a unique position to positively impact the community that they are responsible for.

The National League of Cities (NLC) report states that one in three children in the U.S. are overweight or obese, and that children aged 2-19 from low-income families are 1.7 times more likely to be obese. Seeing these disturbing trends, the NLC formed a Learning Collaborative on Health Disparities to answer the questions: “If low-income youth and youth of color are more likely to suffer poorer health outcomes that prevent them from reaching their full potential, what are the implications for the future workforce and for the overall social and economic health of America’s cities and towns? And what can city leaders do to reduce these health disparities?”

Using these questions, the NLC invited leaders from seven cities: Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Cleveland, Ohio; Savannah, Georgia; Kansas City, Kansas; Virginia Beach, Virginia; and Lincoln, Nebraska; to share their opinions about the trials and opportunities associated with their local efforts to lessen childhood obesity disparities. Using the data from conversations with leaders in these cities, the NLC has released a new report that examines the impact that mayors can have on their communities, especially in the realm of affecting health disparities.

The report identifies five actions that mayors can use to address health disparities: Speak boldly about race, racism and health; listen to the stories of residents; focus on health equity; connect health to other city priorities; and engage the business community.

To learn more about these five action items that NLC has identified, read the report here, and view lessons from the field here