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Philadelphia's Rebuild program is an investment for inclusive, healthier neighborhoods

Rebuild, funded by the Philadelphia Beverage Tax, is an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars towards revitalizing neighborhood parks, recreation centers, libraries and playgrounds. Rebuild has committed to addressing the social determents of health by making Philadelphia’s neighborhoods more inclusive, accessible and equitable.

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Last year, hundreds of community members in Fishtown joined Mayor Jim Kenney, Council President Darrell L. Clarke and City Officials to celebrate the unveiling of a newly renovated playground at the Fishtown Recreation Center.

Philadelphians from all neighborhoods will soon be able to join in on the celebration as there are currently 61 sites underway including eight children’s playgrounds. Rebuild has been focused on improvements to workplace diversity. Fifteen diverse Philadelphia-based small businesses have been approved as Rebuild emerging vendors, and an additional 43 businesses have enrolled in the Rebuild Ready Small Business Support Program. We have already seen positive results from these investments, according to the recent Health of Our City report, showing 75% of Philadelphia adults reported they have access to a park or green space that they feel comfortable visiting.

In our city, one third of children live at or beneath the poverty line. That is why investments made possible by the Philadelphia Beverage Tax are important steps towards addressing the social determinants of health like social and economic factors and health behaviors, which, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation County Health Rankings, are some of the most important influencers to an individual’s health. Rebuild is addressing those factors by their commitment to greater equity in our neighborhood’s through a focus that is inclusive of community feedback, develops partnerships to improve diversity in the workplace, and engages youth with relatable programming.

By investing in greater access to quality parks and recreation centers, Philadelphians will have an opportunity to get the American Heart Association-recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week for adults and one hour per day for youth. Physical activity is a proven method to improve heart health and reduce disease risks, leading to living a longer, healthier life. In a city where 1 in 5 youth and a third of adults have obesity, more work is needed to improve health outcomes, specifically the disparity seen in neighborhoods separated by less than 2 miles.

Earlier this month, Mayor Kenney began his second term and City Councilmembers were sworn in. This is an opportunity to, once again, thank the Mayor and supportive Councilmembers for their work to address the social determinants of health through the Philadelphia Beverage Tax. Their work has led to thousands of children receiving a high-quality early childhood education, neighborhoods receiving hundreds of millions in investment towards parks and recreation centers, a commitment to improving diversity in the workplace, and a significant 8% reduction in youth consumption of unhealthy sugary drinks.

Rebuild’ s commitment toward ensuring all neighborhoods are equitable and healthier is a continued work in progress. In the new year there will be completed projects in Kensington and west Philadelphia, and an additional 30 diverse small businesses will receive training and support services. As we know, there are historical and systemic barriers that for generations prevented investments in our neighborhoods to address the social determinants of health. To achieve our goal to make Philadelphia a more inclusive, equitable and healthier city, we cannot be deterred. We must continue to support the progress that is happening. It is because of our city’s forward-thinking and proactive approach we are seeing the promised results of the Philadelphia Beverage Tax to address and improve the influences that can lead to a more prosperous city for all where residents live longer, healthier lives.

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