public health

Who Gets to Play Outside?

Because of the obesity epidemic, everyone has been told that exercise is a cure-all from sadness to fitness. Marginalized communities who endure the frustrations of both food and transit deserts are often the target of those who are least affected by such circumstances. Heavy traffic, irregular hours and low incomes make for the worst companions when trying to escape the cycles that created the distress in the first place. Luckily, one of the most spread-out, expensive cities in the United States has decided that if being outside can offer health benefits, it might as well address equity.

Cost of living is the biggest burden on impoverished areas of cities because health decisions are often made with disposable income. After all, it becomes more difficult to train for marathons if new sneakers are nowhere in the budget. Because Los Angeles is aware that everyone lives in the city from celebrities to convicts, one of its first orders of business is the installation of affordable housing. Not everyone has to own the best shoes to be outside, but being able to close a door makes going outside a little easier on the feet. Done correctly, the mayor will actually make his zero-homelessness goal of 2022 and reshape international image.

Being outside is obviously a large part of exercise, but it becomes more difficult to practice if the nearest parks are too far. In fact, the difficulty in accessing a safe walking route is why many poorer people fail to walk the recommended thirty minutes. While some are able to use the minimal transit available in the area, others are put off due to their proximity to busy roadways and the smog. Even with the smog, the mayor is working to provide more park space so that people in poor communities are go outside safely within their neighborhoods. Despite the portrayals, many people in marginalized communities enjoy public parks and use them without hesitation.

Finally, the mayor recognizes that there is only so far public finances will stretch and only so much labor the city can afford. He wants to work with private partners, but is skeptical of developers using any incentives to produce luxury real estate, which creates more problems. In its early stages, the mayor is seeking public input and working to reconstruct how the community is engaged to avoid displacement and alienation. Collaboration means that Los Angeles looks the way residents expect, and may help in retaining some of the character that makes the city unique.

Despite the raging inequity in some of the most coveted locations, some city staff are working to provide solutions that can be implemented quickly while also being cost-effective. The challenge remains for entrenched entities to acknowledge that a city which only works for the upper echelons is an effectively dysfunctional city. Time will demonstrate whether the mayor and city staff can transition to affordability as well as equanimity, or if those who are bent on profits and entertainment will have the last word for Los Angeles.

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