A Focus on Health to Resolve Urban Ills

By | April 20, 2017

On a crisp morning in the struggling Bay Area city of Richmond, Calif., Doria Robinson prepares a community vegetable garden for an onslaught of teenagers who will arrive that afternoon. Beyond the farm, a Chevron refinery pumps plumes of smoke into the atmosphere. The farm won’t remove the pollution, but Robinson believes it can make the city’s residents healthier in other ways, specifically by showing them that “their actions have an impact.”

“Down here it’s hard to see what matters,” Robinson says, “that you matter, that your neighborhood matters.”

Robinson is the director of Urban Tilth, a nonprofit organization that is part of a movement in Richmond to counteract chronic stress that stems from the characteristics of the environment — abuse, discrimination, unrelenting economic worries and feelings of marginalization and lack of control — all of which scientists have linked to poor health. Children exposed to domestic violence, for example, develop higher rates of asthma, substance abuse, sexually transmitted diseases and liver disease; H.I.V. has been shown to progress faster in gay men who conceal their homosexuality than in men who live openly, and people living paycheck to paycheck below the poverty line have shorter life spans. (New York Times)

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