Elements of Health

Air

Despite progress made through national air quality standards, urban air pollution remains an important contributor to poor health in many urban areas, including San Francisco. Air pollutants result in adverse effects on lung development, asthma, and life-expectancy. Exposure is greater for communities near pollution sources, such as freeways, distribution centers, and heavy industry and the elderly, the young, and those with higher rates of respiratory disease are most vulnerable to harm.

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Water

The drinking water epidemiology program is the centerpiece of a unique collaboration between the San Francisco Department of Public Health and the Public Utilities Commission. Our aim is to ensure a safe drinking water supply by acting as a resource to the Public Utilities Commission with regard to health issues related to drinking water. We provide immediate support and response to events that raise health implications and concerns. 

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Food

Residents with limited resources may be more susceptible to diet-sensitive chronic diseases such as obesity, hypertension, and diabetes, as well as increased doctor visits and hospitalizations, and psychosocial stress. Because of the high cost of living in San Francisco, many residents struggle to afford their basic needs such as housing and transportation, as well as healthy food. In addition to a lack of financial resources, food insecurity may be related to transportation and other mobility issues, the neighborhood food environment, and issues related to stigma.

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Housing

San Francisco Department of Public Health is working to improve health by improving the quality and accessibility of housing. Unmet housing needs in San Francisco result in significant public health costs. Inadequate or unaffordable housing forces San Francisco residents into crowded and substandard conditions and increases the risk of involuntary displacement. Residents who live in poor housing quality are at great risk for problems associated with home deterioration such as compromised climate contorl, growth of mold and mildew, pest or rodent infestation, lead and other environmental hazards.

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Land Use

Land use, or the way we design our cities, affects health in many ways, including:

  • Environmental sustainability and climate change
  • Exposure to harmful substances
  • Access to resources for healthful living, such as parks and grocery stores
  • The ability to connect with community members
  • Crime
  • Safe access to different transportation modes, such as transit, walking and cycling

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Transportation

There is a strong and continually growing body of research documenting the links between our health and the transportation system, including: the design and location of our streets, freeways, and truck routes; public transit facilities and service; availability and quality of sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, and bike facilities; locations of airports and shipping ports. Our health is affected by the transportation system in a number of ways

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Work

Employment conditions and benefits – such as fair wages, time off for illness and leisure, health insurance, access to personal protective equipment, training on health and safety, or the right to collective bargaining – all impact worker and community health. San Francisco has taken a number of steps to improve working conditions, including providing a higher local minimum wage, paid sick leave and health care contributions for all employees.

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Noise

Moderate community noise, that is, levels above 55 decibels (dB), can contribute to a number of avoidable health conditions including interference with speech, impairments in attention, concentration, learning, and memory, poorer sleep, aggravation of high blood pressure, and greater risk of myocardial infarction.

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Parks and Green Space

Parks and open spaces fill one of human beings’ most basic needs: the need for interaction with other people and nature. Parks bring together ethnically and socio-economically diverse people seeking an escape from everyday stressors. They provide environmental services that benefit the entire community. These functions result in a variety of health benefits, but require safe and inviting environments for their full realization.

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Climate

Many people view climate change solely as an environmental problem, but the impact of climate change on human health is a major concern for public health, particularly for populations with known health disparities. The public health community is involved in climate action planning because climate change is happening now and faster than expected.

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