The Health in All Policies Task Force – a Beginning Step to a Healthier California

How can the State of California do a better job of promoting healthy communities? How can all state agencies – not just those charged with health or the environment – promote health? One promising development: early this year, Governor Schwarzenegger established the Health in all Policies Task Force as part of the Strategic Growth Council. The Governor charged the Task Force to identify “priority actions and strategies for state agencies to improve community health while also advancing the other goals” of the Council such as improving air and water quality, protecting natural resources and improving infrastructure systems.

In order to fulfill the mandate to develop a set of recommendations for the State, staff from the Center for Chronic Disease Prevention & Health Promotion at the California Department of Public Health, under the outstanding leadership of Linda Rudolph, convened a Stakeholder Advisory Group to help develop a framework for the recommendations. RAMP was invited to participate and over the past several months we provided advice on structure and content as well as outreach to additional stakeholders.

RAMP is pleased with the final report and the first step it represents (you can peruse the report yourself here). Highlights include an emphasis on the built environment and the role that it can play in reducing exposure to environmental triggers. Other bright spots include the call for additional tobacco use reductions, as well as the recognition that affordable housing plays a part in health. We also applaud recommendations that the state incorporate health and health equity criteria into its grant making, and that agencies do a better job of reaching out to the public for guidance before making decisions.

However, the work of the Task Force is not complete. First, in January the new administration may bring new ideas and different approaches; it’s important that incoming Governor Brown understand the potential and promise of the Task Force. Second, while the recommendations are a good first step, more is needed. For example, the omission of outdoor air quality as a core recommendation area is troubling. While air quality is included or referenced in several sections (e.g., active transportation), the magnitude of the issue warrants its own section and recommendations. Additionally, the current recommendations deal almost exclusively with new housing but neglect the need to address existing housing conditions. There’s also too little attention paid to school facilities and the role they play in creating healthy environments.

RAMP will continue to track the Task Force’s work and advocate for more health protective approaches. Stay tuned!