innovation and bold leadership, Portland can become
the healthiest city in the country.
In this chapter, Portlanders take a comprehensive view
of health, addressing not just the healthcare system,
but all of the factors that they believe contribute
to healthy individuals and communities. Portlanders
understand that the health of community members depends
on the individual making good lifestyle choices and
getting regular preventative healthcare, but also emphasize
that government has a responsibility to support and
promote good health.
Many Portlanders understand the relationship between
the physical design of an urban environment and how
it can encourage and lead to, or detract from, an individual’s
health. These people praise Portland for being a clean,
safe, user-friendly, walkable and bikable city that
has “healthy infrastructure” in place. They feel that
Portland “makes it easy to be healthy.” Some of these
people also praise Portland’s compact urban form and
concerted efforts to lessen our impacts on the environment
– which they likewise view as good for human health.
While Portland does much to promote community health,
much more can and should be done to ensure that all
Portlanders are as healthy as they could be. Specifically,
respondents want Portland to lead the nation by finding
a way to provide healthcare for all community members.
They want to see Portland become “the healthiest city
in America” and believe this can only be accomplished
if all community members have access to healthy living
amenities, quality preventative care and medical attention
when it is needed.
the individual and the community have a responsibility
to promote health.
is a city that values, supports and promotes healthy
- Environmental conditions
directly impact people’s health.
- Portland should strive
to become the “healthiest city in the country.”
- How easy is it to be healthy
the individual and the community have a responsibility
to promote health.
- When speaking about health, Portlanders
do not limit their comments to the healthcare
system, but rather address all the ingredients
necessary for healthy living.
- Portlanders generally believe that good
health comes about as a result of individual
choices as well as community and government
- Individual lifestyle choices that contribute
to good health include:
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet;
- Leading a low-stress, balanced life;
- Avoiding risky behaviors such as smoking
or substance abuse.
- Government actions and decisions that support
good health include:
- Protecting the natural environment;
- Reducing the presence of toxins in public
- Providing access to parks, walking trails,
biking trails and other places where community
members can exercise for free;
- Regulating the food supply to keep
harmful substances out of people’s diets;
- Supporting alternate modes of transportation,
thereby reducing dependence on automobiles.
- Portlanders also believe that healthy individuals
create healthier, safer and more productive
communities, and that it is critical to invest
in people’s health.
city of Portland is very valuable in its
beauty and being very positive in helping
people. I’ve only lived here for 2 ½ years.
There are so many opportunities to advance
yourself physically, financially, and
socially and emotionally.”
compassionate health care system would
actually make our city safer because people
may engage in unsafe practices and risky
behaviors when they feel disenfranchised,
when they have nothing to lose. In other
words, poor or underemployed folks may
not feel invested in a community that
does not value them. One way to prove
we believe in the worth of every individual
is to provide basic mental and physical
healthcare for everyone.”
the future there will be] increased numbers
of people out of their homes and interacting
– increased community involvement, less
people staying inside. Natural environment
has improved – it’s healthy and so are
we. More outside gathering places.”
a future commitment to less obesity –
there are too many overweight people considering
our outlets to the outdoors, fresh air,
recreation, sports, etc.”
is a city that values, supports and promotes
- People love being able to easily access
fresh, local, healthy food through a variety
of different outlets, including:
- Neighborhood farmers markets;
- Non-traditional, health-conscious grocery
stores such as New Seasons and Whole Foods;
- Community gardens located throughout
the City; and
- Community Supported Agriculture and
farms near the city limits.
- Portlanders emphasized the importance of
everyone being able to access healthy, organic,
locally grown and/or pesticide free food (for
more on this topic, see Urban Livability:
Urban Agriculture and Community Gardens).
A Clean Environment:
- Portlanders recognize the connection between
a clean environment and good individual and
- Portlanders value the efforts the City makes
to preserve and protect the environment, including:
- Maintaining sources of clean, pure drinking
- Managing stormwater and preventing
overflow into the river;
- Planting trees and taking other measures
to improve air quality; and
- Promoting cycling, walking and other
measures to reduce air pollution. (for
more on preserving a clean environment,
Natural Environment and Environment: Sustainability.)
- Many Portlanders see the city’s emphasis
on community as key to helping people start
and sustain healthy lifestyle choices.
- Community gathering places (such as parks
and community colleges) provide support for
people in exercise or sports classes, helping
Portlanders stay connected while they improve
- Many feel that Portland’s focus on community
building also helps reduce isolation, stress
and other factors that contribute to mental
and physical illness.
can eat healthy here—it’s accessible.
Grassroots sensibility. People are resources—city
recycles. People are positive and hopeful.”
exciting place—people are far more conscious
about many things including food, food
quality, and food access. Health and healthy
food is part of everyday life.”
a transplant, one of the most valuable
things about the city is location to natural
areas. Being a year-round outdoor activities
person the location is ideal. The fact
that the city supports the healthy lifestyle
- Invest in connecting and improving
bicycle and pedestrian routes throughout the
- Locate public transit stops near neighborhoods
so people get out of their cars and walk to
and from transit.
- Subsidize farmers markets in lower-income
neighborhoods to bring high-quality produce
to people at affordable prices.
For many more strategies on promoting active,
healthy lifestyles, see:
conditions directly impact people’s health.
- Respondents are very concerned about the
presence of environmental toxins and pollutants
in the air, water, parks and other places
they frequent (for a full description of their
concerns, see Environment:
Air and Environment:
- In particular, many respondents complain
about air pollution from the following sources:
- Heavy industry in the Northwest Portland
- Busses in downtown Portland and the
- Many Portlanders advocate tightening restrictions
on smoking, so as not to expose workers, customers
and passing people to highly harmful cigarette
smoke. Proposals include:
- Banning smoking in bars;
- Banning smoking around the outside of
office buildings; and
- Banning smoking throughout the entire
- A number of Portlanders also call for toxic
chemicals to be banned from parks and for
the City to find organic or non-toxic products
for park maintenance.
- Respondents are also concerned that minorities
and lower income Portlanders tend to live
in or near the most polluted areas of the
city, while wealthier Portlanders have access
to cleaner and safer environments.
value Portland's] green spaces, high
degree of livability. I also like Portland’s
progressive and forward thinking culture
(e.g. current low emissions west coast
corridor). I value this for the health
of its citizens and its future citizens.”
percent reduction in chemicals used on
our greenway and in our air. We will breathe
better and healthier.”
should strive to become “the healthiest city
in the country.”
- With its focus on healthy living, Portland
has the opportunity to lead the county in
regards to the health of its population.
- Many people want to see Portland become
a model city by meeting the health needs of
all of its residents.
- In particular, respondents call on the City
to find a way to provide healthcare and/or
health insurance to everyone. They state their
faith in Portland’s ability to solve this
challenge long before it is solved nationally.
- Many Portlanders imagine a future in which:
- Obesity and child obesity are drastically
- All people lead active lifestyles and
walking and cycling are the preferred
modes of transportation;
- Healthcare costs are low because everyone
receives personalized, high-quality preventative
- No-one has to forgo necessary medical
care because of income or ability to pay.
have the opportunity to create a McCall
like legacy in building the components
of a healthy city.”
“[In the future, Portland will be]…balanced.
Healthier. An example for the rest of
the country. A livable and happy place.”
"If it contributes to health, economic
vitality, or a clean environment, support
it. If it contributes to some but not
others, adjust it. If it does not contribute,
[get] rid of it.”
- Solicit input from residents who
have benefited from excellent healthcare and
use their experiences to improve services
- Invest heavily in prevention and alternate
- “Address root causes of the city’s ailments
(crime, drugs, health issues, the break down
of families) not the symptoms.”
- Guarantee that all community members have
access to medical care when they need it.
This could take the form of universal health
care, a single-payer system or a local insurance
program that covers everyone.
easy is it to be healthy in Portland?
Many respondents believe that Portland is already
doing an excellent job of promoting the health of
community members. They point to the abundance of
fresh, healthy food, the parks located throughout
the city and the government’s investment in bicycle
lanes, walking trails and other forms of “healthy
infrastructure.” They also note the abundance of alternative
healthcare options available in Portland, including
many forms of preventative care that keep people from
becoming sick in the first place.
However, many other Portlanders have a very different
view of health in the city. They are unable to access
the care that they need because they don’t have
insurance or they cannot afford to purchase it on
their own. They experience pollution on a daily
basis because they live near sources of pollution,
suffer from asthma or have other health complications
as a result of pollution. They lack access to high-quality,
organic produce because it is not sold at the supermarkets
where they shop, or it is out of their price range.
Many other Portlanders also feel that the City
is not doing enough when they see people with mental
health issues living on the streets downtown. They
hold the view that much more could be done to ensure
that these individuals receive the care they need
to prevent them from becoming homeless in the first
place. They also find it morally unacceptable that
so many children are uninsured and therefore unable
to receive medical care when they need it. They
point to high obesity rates and the mirroring of
other national health trends to argue that Portland
still has a long way to go before it can be seen
as a healthy place for all its residents.