A Report for Seattle Public Utilities
Both nationally and locally health organizations are increasingly looking upstream to the social determinants of health to create community wellness, prevent chronic disease, and increase health care effectiveness. Similarly, City of Seattle departments, such as Seattle Public Utilities, have begun to look at more holistic, nature-based solutions to infrastructure and programmatic investments that address systems’ needs while also improving community and livability benefits.
This report explores opportunities to link expanded access to natural and green areas (e.g., parks, street trees, trails, and natural areas) to improve community health outcomes. The underlying assumption, based on the evidence presented, is that more time outdoors, especially for communities experiencing health disparities, can improve mental health, physical activity, air quality, social cohesion, and other social determinants of health. Green infrastructure and programmatic investments, defined broadly, will be an important part of many Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) and City of Seattle (City) investments, such as:
- Sanitary and combined sewer overflow treatment;
- Stormwater treatment;
- Flood hazard reduction;
- Climate change and associated sea-level rise;
- Sediment cleanups;
- Food waste recovery and food deserts;
- Parks, open spaces, p-patches, trails, and pedestrian and bike infrastructure;
- Stewardship, volunteer, education, community development, and engagement programs.
How those City investments are designed and implemented with communities can have both positive and negative public health outcomes. They can also link to the work of health organizations or not. To understand these possible interconnections this report strives to:
- Summarize some of the research linking time spent in nature to better health;
- Create a base understanding of Seattle’s community health priorities looking at the Community Health Needs Assessments of local health care providers;
- Identify potential opportunities to link nature to current hospital spending; and
- Identify other opportunities to link SPU and City green infrastructure and programmatic expenditures to health.
This analysis is a first step for building connections and partnerships—a snapshot of opportunities—and not meant to stand alone.
View citations in the report.