By Cynthia Gonzalez
Curbed LA released an article entitled “Watts Residents Will Die 11.9 Years Before Bel Air Residents” to provide a summary of the findings from the Health Atlas for the City of Los Angeles. Multiple questions come up when looking at both the article and the Health Atlas. Though intriguing, the title of the article falls short from further discussing the importance of these findings.
Now that we have the data, what can we do to use research, community engagement, and policy to collectively improve the health, social, and physical conditions of our neighborhoods? How can we, as stakeholders, participate in advocating with and for the diverse communities that make Los Angeles a diverse and culturally rich city? How can we be mindful of the conditions of the people living in these communities? How can we rethink research in ways that does not abuse, but reconnects with the communities that were once affected by it? How can we contribute to self-sustainable communities?
Moreover, though enraging, these findings demonstrate urgency for influencing policy that begins to direct its efforts to neighborhoods identified as vulnerable and/or underserved. How can we begin to challenge and redirect policy that has failed communities like Watts? How can the Watts PUMA have the lowest rate in California, “representing the same life expectancy rate for the US from almost 40 years ago” and we not question the influence that policy has on these conditions, historically? Though our first reaction to these findings may have multiple responses, lets begin to take action and participate in collaborative efforts that are inclusive of multiple stakeholders, which brings up an overall question: How can we collectively engage at multiple levels (residents, community/faith-based organizations, citywide, statewide, and/or nationwide)?
We, the Watts Community Studio, are committed to efforts that are collective, collaborative, and community-based. A neighborhood should transform with the people living in the community. Therefore, neighborhood conditions can only change with the inclusion of those who live and take leadership in these areas. Please become active with your local neighborhood council and become informed about the various projects ongoing in your community.
The Health Atlas is now moving along with its next steps in outreach about their findings to inform its next chapter. The Health and Wellness Chapter will serve as a policy mandate to prioritize health as the City develops and grows. The citywide document will use planning-based tools such as transportation, land use, open space and environmental standards to increase opportunities for healthy activities, choices and living in Los Angeles. Please visit the Resources & Data page and click on Health Atlas for the City of Los Angeles for further information on the Health and Wellness Chapter.