How healthy is your neighborhood?

This week is Girls Inc. Girls’ Rights Week, an annual celebration of girls advocating for their rights and positive change in the world. The theme of this year’s week is Healthy Girls, Healthy Communities.
As a part of the week, Girls Inc. created the Healthy Girls, Healthy Communities Mapping Project, a collection of maps created by girls across the United States. Girls ages 6-18 examined their neighborhoods, schools, towns, and counties to identify opportunities, barriers, and solutions around physical activity.
I’m thrilled with this conceptualization of health for girls. After all, so often we are socialized to measure our health in terms of pounds, calories, and inches, rather than taking a more holistic view (how do we feel? how do we move? what kind of pleasure do we take in eating? etc.). Further, too often our reality television, extreme makeover culture makes girls feel like they have infinite control over their own body sizes and shapes, as if all of us just need willpower and money to obtain the perfect, as defined by society at the moment, body. Instead, there are genetic factors, physiological limits, and environmental influences that play a huge role in what our bodies look like and how we experience them.
When I look at my neighborhood, I can see that I’m blessed in terms of proximity to a park and the general safety to take advantage of it on an almost daily basis. I also don’t have a car, so I walk a lot and carry all of my groceries etc. with my own two arms. On the other hand, I live near a lot of fast food joints and corner stores that don’t carry many healthy eating options. As the neighborhood has gentrified (a whole different post, of course), the corner stores have started carrying healthier food options, but most of them are exorbitantly priced compared to the rest of the merchandise.
How does your neighborhood/community measure up in terms of health and wellness factors?

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2 Comments

  1. Comrade Kevin
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    The neighborhood in which I live has always been affluent and is considered one of the better parts of the District.
    I am a block from a grocery store and about a mile from two Whole Foods, depending on whether I head due north or due south. I buy food at the lower-cost grocery store usually, and Whole Foods on occasion when I can afford it. There aren’t more than one or two fast food restaurants in the entire neighborhood. Trendy restaurants are the norm for the area.
    Foot traffic is common because adequate sidewalks exist and are broad enough to accommodate people headed in both directions. The gym I go to is a mile down the road, but if I had a runner’s body type, I could certainly jog without difficulty. Walkers are also found in copious quantity.
    I know I’m very lucky and the amount of rent I am charged per month makes me very aware of that fact. Moving to a recently gentrified part of town would mean a lower cost of living, but without the amenities I have now. There’s also a kind of NW DC attitude that I find at times intolerably elitist, but I suppose one finds that everywhere.

  2. Devoted_Toucan
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    Crappy, I’d say. One report recently said that the average number of different meals families eat is nine (here). Something tells me that most are microwave dishes. The local shopping area doesn’t have many healthy food joints, but does have a couple of fast food ones. I believe that around half (no exaggeration) of the people I pass in the street are smokers; some as young as ten. I have to pass by the elderly ladies who smoke outside the Bingo Gala on my way to the shops…they certainly like to litter that area with cigarettes. Binge drinking is ridiculously high. There’s “nothing to do”, so adolescents turn to drinking; drugs; crime, etc…and those that don’t (if they do hang out on the streets) are thought of as dangerous anyway because of what they might get up to. However, our local Forum (with a library, a small area for plays, and a basic swimming pool in) has a new look nowadays, and apparently it even has a gym now. So there’s something positive, haha. Hopefully a lot of people put it to good use.

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