Monday, February 15, 2010

The latest from Gallup on DC's ranking on well-being

What do the results of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index 2009 state-level data have to say about DC?   The DC metro area (the DC Metropolitan Statistical Area, or MSA) received an overall rank of 8 out of 162.   At the same time, though, the DC MSA was the number 2 top 10 metro areas in the composite score ranking.

What is most interesting are the results of the sub-indexes of well-being:   Life Evaluation, Emotional Health, Work Environment, Physical Health, Healthy Behaviors, and Basic Access.   As is shown in the table below, the DC area ranks first on the Life Evaluation sub-index, that which captures "Personal assessments of one's present life and life in five years, on a scale of 0 to 10."   The DC area fares less well on the Basic Access sub-index which measures "basic needs optimal for a healthy life, such as access to food and medicine, having health insurance and feeling safe while walking at night."   On this measure, DC ranks 24 out of 162.

This is what we know about access to basic services in DC:

  • The recent FRAC analysis on food hardship reports that DC’s 2009 food hardship rate was 20.8, ranking the city 15th.   Food hardship is defined as "the lack of money to buy food that families need."
  • According to the feds, DC’s LIHEAP (Low-Income Housing Energy Assistance Program) benefits were:   Heating and cooling: $49 minimum, $571 average, $1,300 maximum; Crisis: $750 maximum.
  • The feds also report an estimated 36,607 households served by LIHEAP in FY 2009 for heating and cooling.
  • On February 1, 2010, 1,724 individuals and 285 families were served by homeless shelters.   On the same day, there were no family shelter vacancies and 34 families were turned away for lack of space.

This information can be used to make the case that more needs to be done to meet the basic needs of DC residents.   Gallup has reached the same conclusion:

Bottom Line:   Leaders should be mindful of the well-being of the residents in their respective cities, as it has potential ramifications for economic development, law and order, and a sense of shared pride and purpose.   The city well-being comparisons can also help to reveal best practices to celebrate for some and a call to arms for others.

The challenge, of course, is how the city can use this information and information like it to make life-saving decisions in the context of a hundreds of million revenue shortfall.

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