Initiative aims to tackle inequalities affecting South Phoenix

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An effort is underway to improve the health of residents in South Phoenix. It’s called Blue Zones Activate, and it uses an evidence-based approach to help people thrive in the areas where they spend the most time. Tomas Leon, president of Equality Health Foundation, discusses what the initiative is all about.

Why was South Phoenix chosen for this initiative?

According to Leon, zip codes in Phoenix have a 14-year life expectancy gap, compared to other areas in the Valley. This, combined with other factors, made South Phoenix an ideal candidate for the Blue Zone program, which has already been implemented in over 70 communities nationwide.

 “With this evidence-based, place-based initiative, we have an opportunity to impact our surroundings and systems that nudge people in either making the healthier choice, the easiest choice, or the unhealthier choice.”

Equality Health Foundation has consulted community leaders, residents and others to help gauge the specific needs of the greater South Phoenix community, according to Leon. Issues considered include health care access, food security and mental health, among others.

“It’s not just about the gaps and needs, but it’s looking at all the straits and the assets in the community that can be watered and grown and scaled, to make it more accessible to all the residents in the zip codes that we’re going to be focused on.”

How is something this broad going to be achieved? 

The program is currently running an assessment to pinpoint top-priority issues. But according to Leon, it’s an organized effort much bigger than one entity.

“It’s more than one person or one organization that can have a big impact in the community. That’s why this is a coalition that’s developing and building, with sponsors and supporters from the Arizona governor’s office to United Health Care, Valley of the Sun, United Way….the list goes on and is growing.”

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