“Policy Surveillance” Can Help Show Which Government Policies Actually Work

By Chris Adams

Government can have an impact on health – if governments actually implement the policies that evidence has shown can work.

Shelley Hearne, president of CityHealth, laid out for National Press Foundation fellows what those policies are and which cities are following them. CityHealth examines the nation’s largest 40 cities for the policies that can make real impacts on people’s everyday quality of life and health. The measures are backed by experts and have a track record of bipartisan support.

Hearne (bio, Twitter) laid out those nine policies, which, among others, include access to affordable housing, controls on alcohol sales, earned sick leave, tobacco control and smoke-free indoor air.

Her group then scores and ranks cities, giving gold, silver or bronze medals on those factors.

The reasons for the policies are clear. An example: on  sick leave, does the city have an earned sick leave law? Can employees use that leave to care for family members? Can they use it for domestic violence recovery? And what is the minimum amount of earned sick leave employees can earn?

Why some cities still don’t have such policies in place perplexes Hearne, since keeping sick workers away from healthy colleagues is one of the best ways to prevent the transmission of illness. And keeping food-service workers away from their job if they are sick is doubly vital.

In 2018, the best-scoring cities – all awarded gold medals – were Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Jose, California.

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