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At Home: How healthy is your hood?

2014-06-22T09:00:00Z 2014-06-25T17:41:08Z At Home: How healthy is your hood?Marni Jameson nwitimes.com
June 22, 2014 9:00 am  • 

One benefit of living my nomad life is that I get to know a lot of different neighborhoods.

I am trying to focus on the positive as I pack up to move to what will be my fifth neighborhood in three years. You heard right. I am moving again. Yes I know, only too well, that I just moved into my current house less than three months ago.

But we are not going to dwell on the downside of my chronic state of upheaval or we would both need to be heavily medicated. Rather we’re going to focus on the bright side, which won’t take long.

First are the beneficial lessons I’ve learned from house hopping. Besides how to pack like a machine and change my utilities over in the time it takes to hang a sold sign, I’ve learned that, like people, you don’t really know a home until you’ve lived with it.

And also that, like my mom used to say about men—when you marry a man, you marry the whole family—when you buy a home, you buy the whole neighborhood.

And you’d better like it.

Take it from someone as transient as a tumbleweed: What surrounds your home has a greater impact on your health and happiness than what’s in it.

You can have an amazing house, with fabulous features, finishes and furnishings, but if it’s flanked by a toxic waste site, a cow pasture, a freeway and no neighbors, uhh, you’ve missed the point.

As I look back at my past homes, what I remember more than the wood floors, the upgraded appliances, or the lake or mountain views, was how easy—or not—it was to live my life: to get to work, the store, the kids’ school; to run out the door for my morning jog; to know my neighbors.

So for those of you in the market to rent or buy a new home, or who just want to know how your neighborhood stacks up, at least by my lights, I’ve created a quiz. If nothing else, I hope it makes you pause when choosing between a home with fancy kitchen counters and one with friendly sidewalks, all else being equal. To find out how your hood rates, check all that apply:

____1. My house scores high on the walkability scale. To find your home’s walkability score, go to www.walkscore.com and type in your address. Anything over 70 is very walkable. Give yourself credit for any address over 50. Whether members of your household can walk to at least one if not many of their daily activities, such as work, school, church or the market, plays a big role in how much unintentional exercise they get, according to a walkability report out this week from Smart Growth America that ranks America’s 30 largest metros.

___2. My neighborhood has sidewalks, a park, bike lanes, or bike or jogging trails. Those who live in communities that support walking, cycling and outdoor recreation are far more likely to be physically active, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a national nonprofit that works to improve the health of Americans.

____3. I live within a mile of a supermarket that sells fresh produce. Having a fresh-food supermarket nearby is associated with a lower rate of obesity, while living close to a convenience store, which usually doesn’t sell fresh produce, has been linked to higher rates of obesity.

____4. My town has a weekly farmer’s market, which I can get to in five minutes. Studies show that communities that support a farmer’s market, which also provides easy access to healthy produce, are healthier.

____5. The number of sit down restaurants within a five-mile radius of my home either equals or exceeds the number of fast food restaurants.

____6. The environment around my home is relatively free of air and water pollution. To find out the quality of the air and water around your neighborhood, go to http://scorecard.goodguide.com. Enter your zip code, and click “Get Report.” You will find links to information concerning toxic chemicals released by area factories, lead hazards and other air pollutants, as well as how your drinking water compares to national averages.

____7. I live within 30 minutes of a major medical center, and my family’s primary health-care providers. Though you hope you never need it, how close you live to high quality health care can have a considerable bearing on your quality of life. Residents who live near good health providers are more likely to receive the care they need to stay healthy, according to the foundation.

____8. I feel close to my neighbors. Residents of close-knit neighborhoods are more likely to work together to keep their neighborhoods safe and look out for one another, creating a healthy social environment, than those who live in disconnected communities, according to the foundation.

Score: 0-2 Remoteness could mean low hood health. 3-5 Semi-connected. Hood health is pretty good. 6-8 Clean and connected. Your hood has what it takes for healthy living.

Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of “House of Havoc” and “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo Press). Contact her through marnijameson.com.

Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of “House of Havoc” and “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo Press). Contact her through www.marnijameson.com.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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