|Time to revisit the idea of North Charlestown?|
According to a study reported today in The New England Journal of Medicine, people who moved from poor neighborhoods to middle-class ones (defined as having less than 10% of the population living below the poverty line) were about 5% less likely to be obese and show signs of diabetes than people who stayed in poor neighborhoods.
By Linda Felaco
The researchers were not able to say precisely what causes this "neighborhood effect." It could be access to more parks and recreation areas (i.e., open space), or living in an area with safer streets where people feel freer to walk rather than drive. Previous studies have shown that unhealthy behaviors spread through social networks, so it could be that just living near healthier people improves people's health. Regardless of the mechanism, the evidence indicates that by blocking lower-income people from moving to Charlestown, our town's leaders are making people sick.
Meanwhile, a survey of Central Falls residents by the RI Department of Health found that about a third report being in only fair or poor health and many adults report serious health conditions. The survey also found that 20% of residents smoke, versus the 18% reported in towns with comparable income levels. Seventy-five percent of adults do not eat the five recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables, and more than half do not get the recommended daily amount of exercise.
So here's an idea: It's been previously suggested that we could buy our way out of our affordable housing dilemma by purchasing Central Falls. Granted, the PC, CCA, and three-fifths of the TC wouldn't want any CF residents (excuse me, residents of "North Charlestown") actually moving down here, but presumably we could not deny them beach passes or the use of our recreational areas. So they would get the health benefits of our beaches and open spaces, plus the opportunity to get their five recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables from our many farm stands, and we'd fulfill our affordable housing quota. Sounds to me like a win-win for both towns.