Application Summary for the All-America City Awards:
The city has sponsored numerous strategic planning efforts to create a resiliency plan, health objectives, and agency performance goals, with broad public input derived from focus groups, technology platforms, and advisory committees. Social media and web-based programs like the weekly Your City in 5 and Council Buzz help residents and other community stakeholders keep track of city activities and opportunities for input.
1.) Workforce Wellness
Because over 69% of metro El Paso’s residents are classified as obese or overweight, the city decided that one area of focus would be to improve the health of the 6,000 individuals who work for the city itself. Beginning in 2012, the city’s Workplace Wellness program has used biometric screenings, health risk assessments and cash incentives to promote better health through exercise, weight loss, and other healthy behaviors.
The city’s wellness program includes gym reimbursements as well as provision of gyms in eleven city buildings throughout the city. The city also has three wellness clinics that are open to both employees and their dependents, along with a 24-hour online Teladoc service, in which employees can consult with physicians on medical issues and prescriptions via phone, video or mobile apps. In addition, the city sponsors training classes on physical, mental, emotional, and financial well-being.
In 2015, the City of El Paso began a program called Shape It Up, in which financial incentives of between $50-$150 per month were offered to employees based on the results of regular biometric screenings and physical fitness tests. The incentives were offered to both uniformed and nonuniformed employees and have led to great results in terms of weight loss and overall physical fitness.
2.) Policy and Partnerships that Offer Access to Healthcare for All
Health disparities in El Paso stem partly from its lower-than-average income levels, with a per capita income that is only 65% of the national average and 32% of its children living below the federal poverty level. Major problems include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and heart disease.
The City of El Paso and its health department are taking a coordinated, collaborative approach to community health and focusing many of its efforts on prevention. One priority, for example, is childhood immunization, in which the city is working with 109 participating providers and 60 community partners, including the schools, housing authorities and homeless shelters. By working with these community providers, the city is able to assure that services are delivered in culturally-appropriate and effective ways. The city is also involved in numerous collaborations with local universities to research health issues and develop tracking mechanisms.
Many city agencies are involved in El Paso’s community health programs, including the fire department—which has a partnership with the health department to provide health screenings and vaccinations using EMS attendants at fire stations—and the police department, which pairs officers with mental health workers who respond together to situations that might be deescalated to reduce arrests and create better long-term solutions. This Crisis Intervention Response Team program has fielded more than 7,400 calls since its inception several years ago.
3.) Building Healthy Communities
Improving the built environment was a high priority for the 30,000 El Pasoans who gave input for the city’s comprehensive plan and the 70,000 residents who took part in the Resiliency Plan. In order to improve health and the city’s quality of life, residents pushed for the expansion of “safe, walkable, active environments,” increased open space and access to recreational amenities, and better access to medical care.
As a result, the city has built a friendlier walking environment with wider sidewalks, better timing of traffic signals, and protected walking areas. In addition, the city has expanded transit along several corridors and created more bike lanes and trails, with plans to expand bike corridors seven-fold over the next several years. The city also built new trails through natural areas and improved access to existing trails.
In response to resident requests for parks and recreation improvements, El Paso has built new parks and recreation centers, with many including water features, a new 92-acre regional park, and enhancements to its tree-lined streets and outdoor plazas. In response to the call for better access to medical services, the city is working with the University Medical Center and its clinics to coordinate with community partners in ensuring that everyone gets the care—including preventative services—they need.