Health and the Spaces Inbetween
Posted by Miriam Axel-Lute on March 5, 2013
Last year, we published a focus issue on health and community development. We called the package "Are Our Neighborhoods Making Us Sick?" and pulled together a wide range of authors talking about everything from asthma triggers in affordable housing to mobility between and isolation of neighborhoods. It sparked a lot of conversation, and we've been keeping our eyes out for chances to continue that conversation through Shelterforce and Rooflines, about both the existing overlaps and how the two sectors can come together.
Looking through that lens, it actually becomes quite clear that our entire recent issue, about "third places" (gathering spots that are neither home nor work) in distressed communities, is also threaded through with questions of health, even though we didn't necessarily set out to make that a focus. For example:
- Third places often revolve around food, eating together, and access to healthy food, whether it's community gardens, farmer's markets, or a "public kitchen."
- Healthy third places also provide opportunities to forge the kind of "collective efficacy" or social cohesion that can increase safety in a neighborhood, as well as being a factor in mental health in its own right.
- Third places provide chances for active recreation and exercise--if people feel empowered to make them their own.
- Many third places also provide chances for wellness activities outside of a medical setting, whether it's a blood pressure check up at the community-owned pub, recipe exchanges and nutrition consultation at the farmer's market, or a clinic associated with a garden on school grounds.
These natural overlaps are a perfect example of the point that community development and health are deeply interwined, and we look forward to continuing to explore them.
About the author more »
Miriam Axel-Lute is editor of Shelterforce and associate director of the National Housing Institute. Her email is miriam at nhi dot org.