Series of Proposals for Community Health Improvement

When it comes to improving the health of a large pool of Californians, small steps can yield big cumulative results. That’s the idea behind a series of proposed laws that are coming before committees in the next two weeks — and part of an overarching plan to get health considerations included in land-use and other policies on the Capitol’s daily agenda, according to Ellen Wu of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network.

“The state can pass laws and [convene] task forces,” she said, “that can change all of our policies so that they incorporate health.” For instance, she said, when you’re planning some kind of development, make sure multi-lane roads don’t run alongside schools or hospitals.

A few of the bills on tap:

  • AB 727 by Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) proposes that state offices, vending machines and cafeterias have healthier, affordable food options available. Beyond the potential for positive impact on state employees’ health, there are hidden savings, Mitchell said, in lower health care costs for the state and more support for California’s farmers. “It’s time to ensure that our state dollars are invested in the health of our residents,” Mitchell said.
  • AB 441 by Bill Monning (D-Carmel) would require the California Transportation Commission to consider health issues when it prepares regional transportation plans.
  • AB 581 by John Pérez (D-Los Angeles) would create the California Healthy Food Financing Initiative. It’s a multi-agency initiative to make healthier food more accessible throughout the state.  Many low-income neighborhoods have a dearth of markets, and residents there tend to rely on convenience store groceries. The cost of implementing the initiative has not yet been finalized.
  • AB 516 by V. Manuel Pérez (D-Coachella) would alter the Safe Routes to Schools program, by changing one of the ways proposals are awarded. Instead of gearing a proposal’s weight to school-based representatives and local police and traffic agencies, the bill would encourage more input from the nearby community, which includes police and school officials and traffic experts, but puts more of an emphasis on the public participation process.

The idea of all of these proposals (AB 727, AB 441, AB 581, AB 516) is to improve people’s health incrementally. Those small benefits add up, Wu said.

“A lot of the people affected in California have multiple health risk factors — homelessness, addiction, joblessness,” she said, “so any policies relating to those issues are cumulative.”

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