foreclosure problem across the United States is a huge human tragedy that requires policy makers to be actively involved in these issues.
Juvenile justice is another focus point in efforts to reduce health disparities. By launching a public health approach to youth violence, the entire community was brought together and a comprehensive approach focusing on prevention was created. This approach involves four key values. First, every young person in Minneapolis is supported by at least one trusted adult in his or her family or community. Second, intervene at the first sign that young people are at risk for violence. The city has stepped up efforts to enforce truancy and curfew laws. A curfew-truancy center where youth are sent also provides family support services; 80 percent of those youth sent to the curfew-truancy center never return. Third, refocus young people who have gone down the wrong path. Lastly, unlearn the culture of violence in the community. The outcome of these programs is that juvenile crime is down 40 percent over the past 2 years in Minneapolis. This is, Rybak said, an example of the importance of focusing on upstream factors.
Referencing the federal health care reform legislation then being discussed in the United States, Rybak observed that it is a “national disgrace” that children and adults in this country lack insurance coverage. At the same time, he said, the population needs to have dramatically different lifestyles. This means a focus on the physical activity aspects of communities. For example, Minneapolis has a bike center and hundreds of miles of bike trails, making the city the number two bicycling city in the United States (Portland, Oregon, is number one). It is essential to create and maintain walkable, sustainable communities.
Another example of making the physical aspects of communities friendlier is the Safe Routes to School initiative. Safe Routes to School is a national initiative that identifies ways in which schools and parent groups can find alternatives to busing to get students to and from school. Designating safe routes on which children may walk to and from school each day and including “human school buses” along the route have the added benefit of helping communities organize. A human school bus consists of parents and other adults who accompany with kids as they walk to school or who stand on their front steps and wave to the children as they walk by. Even a message wishing everyone a good day written in chalk on the sidewalk along where children walk can be a contribution to the human school bus.
The final frontier, Mayor Rybak said, is food: what people are putting in their stomachs. He noted that the local food movement is huge in this country and has led to the launch of a new initiative called Homegrown Minneapolis. This initiative involves creating more community gardens as well as increasing access to high-quality, affordable food in neighborhoods that currently do not have access to such products.
Taking this a step further, Rybak noted his wife’s involvement with an