BY LEA YAMASHIO AND MATTHEW HALL
Daily Press Staff
City Hall has released the second draft of the City’s Wellbeing Index and the results are similar to the inaugural findings: life in Santa Monica is pretty good but there are still areas to be improved.
The index measures six dimensions, Outlook (tracking social media commentary on life), Community (how residents involve themselves in local issues), Place and Planet (feelings on open space, buildings and social environment), Learning (academic and life experience), Health (how healthy people feel and the resources available to help them) and Economic Opportunity (the ability of residents to improve their economic situation).
The first-in-the-nation index is a result of a $1 million prize from Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge. The project launched in 2015 and this year’s data expands on the original results. More than 3,800 residents responded to surveys, double the initial intake.
In the Outlook category, locals reported a satisfaction rating of 7.4 out of 10. This is above the national average of 6.9. Two-thirds said they are happy most of the time and 74 percent were optimistic about the future. 30 percent of residents 25-34 years old said they didn’t have enough time to enjoy themselves, a concern shared amongst all age groups to some degree.
Under the Community dimension, locals were very happy with their neighborhoods reporting high levels of trust in their neighbors, confidence in remaining in their neighborhoods and good ability to talk to neighbors. However only one third said they felt they had influence in citywide decisions.
In talking about Place and Planet, half of respondents asked for more community gardens. Residents of color were less likely to be happy with their housing situation and 60 percent of all respondents make use of parks and libraries a few times a month or less.
There were significant differences in the Learning category based on racial classification. In measuring college readiness Whites scored 85 percent, Hispanics/Latinos 72 percent, Blacks 52 percent, Asian 95 percent and Multi-Racial 82 percent.
Locals were generally healthier than the national average but 40 percent do not get enough physical exercise and only 20 percent eat enough fruits/vegetables. One third of 11th graders reported some kind of sadness but 88 percent reported access to a caring adult relationship.
While the median household income is about 50 percent higher than the county average, about half of respondents reported spending more than 30 percent of income on housing and a quarter said they worry about paying for housing.
Councilwoman Gleam Davis said the work is about more than just happiness.
“It’s about people waking up every morning and feeling connected to their community,” she said. “If there is either a personal or community crisis, it’s about being able to deal with it and also to bounce back from it. It’s also about giving improved meaning to people’s lives, so that they feel not just that they are existing from day to day, but that every day they are part of a larger community and part of a larger movement.”
Davis said the results are becoming increasingly influential in the city’s political decision making.
“Now that we’re starting to collect more meaningful and broader-based data, it’s much easier for us then to evaluate, what are we doing as a community doing to improve our resiliency and our wellbeing,” she said. “It’s not just a question of, ‘what is the city council doing?’ although that’s obviously very important; we need to fund programs and fund for the continuous collection of data and have programs based on the data. But by using it then we can also have people in the community contribute, because if we are really going to be a healthy and resilient community, it can’t just be a top-down operation where the city dictates everything. We have to get our local partners, our local businesses, our residents, even the people who are visiting here for a day or two to be part of that entire well-being effort.”
The 2017 data release included a new video partnership Kaiser Permanente
Yesenia Monsour, Public Affairs Director Kaiser Permanente, said the short videos are a perfect fit for the world of social media and will hopefully help spread information about the project.
“I think for Kaiser Permanente, it’s very important to try and make a difference in the community,” she said. “So for us, this Wellbeing Index and the Wellbeing effort was a perfect match for us, because we know that you can go see your doctor, but that’s once a year, twice a year, but if you are living a life of wellbeing, that is going to have the greatest possible impact on your health. If we can help Santa Monicans be more healthy, focus on getting a great job, and be able to do the things that bring joy to their lives, that’s really going to make an impact.”
Santa Monica City Manager Rick Cole said the project is about looking at results.
“Traditionally, government at the local level is organized around services, and those are important, but the really crucial question is: what are the services really producing? What are the results? The Wellbeing Index is really a groundbreaking effort to try to assess what impact not only government is having, but all of our community efforts to improve the quality of life,” he said.
For more information on the index, visit https://wellbeing.smgov.net/get-involved.