I live in Milwaukee. Every so many years city leaders will launch a contest for a new logo, a new slogan. For a while we were “a great city by a great lake.” Lots of time and advertising dollars to say, we’re something cooler than beer and brats and cheeseheads.
Kudos to the De Beaumont Foundation’s CityHealth project for recognizing what makes cities truly medal-worthy: attention to public policies that improve residents’ quality of life and well-being. The home page of their website lays out in one sentence the message to city leaders: “Policy is one of our most important tools to improve people’s lives and make cities thrive.”
CityHealth today awarded the 40 most populous U.S cities gold, silver, bronze, or no medal based on the number and strength of their policies in nine areas as well as overall. One of those policies is paid sick days – your city can have beautiful buildings and sit on a nice lake, but if people have to choose whether to stay sick and spread germs or lose a paycheck, yours is not a thriving city. Other policies include universal, high-quality pre-kindergarten, affordable housing through inclusionary zoning, complete streets, alcohol sales zoning, tobacco 21, smoke-free, clean Indoor air, food safety and restaurant inspection ratings, and healthy food procurement.
Of the 40 cities, only five earned an overall gold. There were six silver medal winners and eight bronze. Notably, 13 of the 19 medal winners have paid sick days policies.
We’re proud to work with CityHealth cities to spread the word about the importance of strong paid sick days policies. They understand that no one should have to choose between caring for family and paying their bills. And clearly the policies cited often interact. Workers who can earn paid sick time, for example, are less likely to lose their housing as a result of lost income or employment. Healthy employees are key to food safety and a city’s public health.
But we have our work cut out for us. More than half of the largest population cities in the United States of America – including my hometown of Milwaukee – lack strong enough policies to warrant an overall medal of any type.
I’m proud that grassroots groups like those involved in the Family Values @ Work network are working hard to change that.
You can read more about the @City_Health report here.