All communities need access to healthy foods and safe places to play and be active—but not all communities have equal access. Low-income communities, particularly communities of color, are more likely to lack access to healthy foods and safe places to play and be active.
Healthy Food and adequate nutrition are cornerstones of good health and proper development in children. Babies born to malnourished mothers may be underweight, have developmental delays and continue to have health problems throughout life. Children experiencing food insecurity (meaning they live in households that at times are unable to acquire adequate food) are more likely to have behavioral health issues such as anxiety and depression. These children may also be at higher risk for developing chronic health conditions, including anemia and asthma. Among the elderly, malnutrition increases disability and decreases resistance to infection. Both not only harm quality of life, but they extend hospital stays. People who are food insecure often have irregular eating patterns, which can lead to being overweight and obese. Additionally, people facing food insecurity typically eat food with less nutrients, so they have dietary deficits that put them at risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and other chronic diseases.
Randy Oostra, DM, FACHE, President and Chief Executive Officer ProMedica, Toledo, Ohio tells us that “Hunger is a problem that healthcare providers see every day among patients of all ages in emergency rooms, clinics, offices, and hospital beds. With adequate amounts of nutritious food, people who are sick have a better response to medication, maintain and gain strength, and have improved chances of recovery. Ultimately, access to healthy food leads to improved health outcomes and lower healthcare costs."
With regard to active living, the evidence there is also clear. Regular physical activity is critical for healthy mental and physical development, chronic disease prevention, and, ultimately, reducing healthcare costs for all. Our ability to be active is determined by where we live, learn, work, and play. In order to engage in physical activity neighborhoods need to offer safe, well-maintained paths and sidewalks; clean, well-lit parks; accessible school playgrounds; affordable public transit; quality physical education and places where people can safely walk and bike.