GW Professor Shares Insights on Factors that Make Cities Healthy

Y. Tony Yang

“Easy access to good healthcare can increase your quality of life exponentially,” said Y. Tony Yang, ScD, LLM, MPH, a George Washington University professor with joint appointments in the Milken Institute School of Public Health and the School of Nursing. It is one of a number of observations he made in WalletHub’s recent Healthiest & Unhealthiest Cities in America report, for which he served as an expert advisor.

The report rates more than 170 of the most populated U.S. cities using 42 indicators of good health. Yang was one of a panel of experts that the publication’s editors asked to weigh in on recent developments in health care and how to build good personal health. Washington, DC, the location of the George Washington University’s main campus, came out at #5 in the rankings (and all of the top four cities are on the West Coast).

“Healthcare facilities are important at any stage in life, but they are especially relevant if you have children or if you are nearing retirement age,” Yang said. Crime rates are also important when assessing the health of cities, he pointed out, because the stress associated with crime can have a direct impact on heart health.

Yang’s observations included advice to local authorities regarding ways to encourage their health, housing, transit, aging, and social service agencies to pool their efforts to improve residents’ quality of life. “For example, they can aim to curb child obesity by requiring restaurants serving children’s meals to make water or low-fat milk the default beverage, replacing typical offerings of soda or chocolate milk,” he said. “They also can offer neighborhood stores financial incentives to sell produce from local farms.”

In response to a question about strategies for convincing people to invest in their health, he stressed the importance of being a good role model. Additionally, he said, “people need to realize that health and wealth are often closely intertwined. Ill-health impairs productivity, hinders job prospects and adversely affects wealth accumulation. Being healthy eliminates one large potential burden -- the expense and distraction of illness... As a result, effectively managing your health can reliably produce a financial windfall unmatched by Wall Street and precious metals.”

Read more of Yang’s insights, including his thoughts on the impact of the Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase healthcare venture, here and check out the rankings here.