The Healthy Austin Program seeks to improve community health and addresses how health risk factors are directly affected by our surroundings. This priority program works to address key elements of community health including physical activity, recreation, access to healthy foods, strengthening the local food system, tobacco-free living, access to healthcare, and improving the built environment to support healthy living.
Departments: Austin Public Health, Economic Development, Neighborhood Housing & Community Development, Office of Sustainability, Parks and Recreation, Planning and Zoning, Austin Transportation
Fresh Food Accessibility
Mobile Markets led by Farmshare Austin and Farm Stands led by Sustainable Food Center provided 334 operational days and 4,427 customer encounters from October to May. Additional funding was provided to the Central Texas Food Bank to open school based mobile food pantries at four Austin Independent School District schools.
Explore the map of all Fresh for Less locations in the map on the right!
City Council approved a resolution on June 14, 2018 that directed the City Manager to explore the feasibility of a long-term lease agreement to allow Urban Roots, a non-profit farm and youth leadership organization, to build a training facility and farm on a city-owned parcel commonly referred to as the Winnebago tract, located at 4711 Winnebago Lane. This 9 acre parcel in East Austin is just south of Ben White and east of I-35. Urban Roots currently operates on three acres of land in Austin, at Bolm Road and US-183. The non-profit farm employs 75 youth workers and produces over 30,000 pounds of produce annually, of which 40 percent is donated to food pantries and soup kitchens. Through a 120-month lease agreement, with two ten year extension options, Urban Roots will provide access to nutritious affordable food. Sixty percent of their produce will be sold at local farmers markets at rates below market value and forty percent will be donated to local pantries. Produce grown on the property can be offered at affordable prices to neighbors in an effort to increase access to healthy, affordable food while providing quality leadership and paid internship opportunities for youth, expanding Urban Roots’ reach south of the river.
Active and Healthy Lifestyles
In addition to the adoption of the Age Friendly Action Plan, Austin City Council also passed a resolution to assess developing multigenerational adult day centers on city-owned facilities in collaboration with the LBJ School of Public Affairs. In 2019, an Age Friendly Program Coordinator was hired with overall responsibility for implementation of the Age Friendly Action Plan across city departments and to increase accessibility for all ages and abilities.
Dockless Mobility Study
Austin Public Health collaborated with the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to complete a Dockless Electric Scooter-Related Injuries study. Austin Public Health led the study, while the CDC provided assistance by deploying four Epidemic Intelligence Service officers to Austin. This study was launched to advance the knowledge of the impact on public health and safety of e-scooter use in Austin as they emerge as a new transportation option.
During the three-month study period, there were nearly one million scooter trips in Austin, according to the Austin Transportation Department. On average, the study showed that 20 individuals were injured per 100,000 scooter trips taken. This study helps to inform safety practices and policy considerations as dockless mobility options are integrated into the transportation system.
Tobacco Free Environments
The Healthy Austin Program aims to promote tobacco-free living by promoting tobacco cessation resources, supporting tobacco prevention efforts, and creating tobacco-free environments through multi-unit housing and workplace-tobacco policies.
Over the last year, Austin Public Health partnered with Incite to launch a tobacco prevention and cessation awareness campaign called “Dear Me”. “Dear Me” featured radio personalities’ and local Austin residents’ letters to themselves depicting why they quit using tobacco or never started. The radio, digital, social media campaign delivered 8,344,664 impressions.
Maintaining a population where all Austinites are able to achieve optimal health requires that health implications are considered in all aspects of city business. As the city continues to grow and develop there are several factors that could present challenges. Data limitations may mask burden of disease among at risk populations and may reduce the ability to demonstrate immediate success of programming. Additionally, there are many great partners that are focused on health. Ongoing coordination is important to ensure health-focused resources and programming are community informed and that all partners are engaged to maximize our collective efforts.
Access to Care
Transportation and affordable housing challenges continue to impact health. Individuals who lack affordable housing, or who do not have access to transportation for medical appointments, experience significant challenges to health and management of chronic disease.
Health disparities pose a significant challenge. People of color continue to face higher rates of disease in Austin and Travis County. When improvements are made in health indicators, another challenge is assuring that the change is a true reduction in disease, and not the result of displacement or gentrification of persons of color outside of Austin and Travis County.
Federal Nutrition Policy
Recent proposed and enacted changes in policy at the Federal level regarding benefits such as SNAP (supplemental nutrition assistance program) have increased reluctance of some communities to accessing social services. Some of these proposed changes have the potential to limit the number of individuals utilizing benefits, potentially increasing food insecurity.
Issues of Scale
Although programs are impactful, they are not at a scale to impact population-wide indicators. For example, Fresh for Less programs are increasing access to fresh, affordable, food. However, these programs are not at a large enough scale to impact an indicator such as obesity rates or food insecurity rates for all of Travis County.