The Link Between Public Health & Sign Control

As of one 35 Scenic America affiliates, Scenic Philadelphia promotes healthy, vibrant, and beautiful public spaces throughout Philadelphia. Scenic America holds a conference each year connecting national advocates for scenery. “How Scenic Beauty Supports Economic Development, Livability and Tourism” was the theme Scenic America’s 2014 Conference held in Houston. Philadelphia’s Amy Hillier, Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design, shared insights about health outcomes that can arise from sign control.

Public Health and Signage LinkThis image above captures familiar signage in Philadelphia. Hillier found that visual assault from outdoor media leads to over-stimulation and/or a decrease in psychosocial well-being, contributing to more chronic disease risks. Additionally, green spaces in Philadelphia overrun by signage statistically leads to lower use, which contributes to less physical activity and can lead to a rise in crime and chronic disease risk.

Ads for unhealthy products (like cigarettes) dominate places where children spend significant time. Philadelphia neighborhoods lived-in primarily by minorities feature these ads the most. Hillier discovered nearly 39% of 2814 corner stores in Philadelphia have tobacco advertising, with North Philadelphia containing the most tobacco ads in the city.

Corner Store AdsThe strong correlation between signage and public health is often overlooked. Hillier’s research raises an important lesson for Philadelphia’s nonprofit community. Analyze all external influences impacting the social problem you face and then consider how to align those influencers to help meet your organization’s goals. For example, organizations seeking a healthier Philadelphia might not connect a nonprofit like Scenic Philadelphia to a solution to greater public health. But as Hillier’s research shows, a strong link exists between the number of open green spaces and decreased health risks for residents. Examine how all the factors involved in the social problem your organization solves and align allies (when it makes sense) to successfully meet your mission.

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Status of The Campaign for Grade Level Reading

Overview

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The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (Campaign) is a nationwide joint-effort among cities, childcare and education advocates, human-service organizations, community leaders, and funders to ensure that,by 2020, the amount of third-grade students who read at grade-level has doubled.

Why is the end of third-grade identified as the critical juncture in a student’s academic career?

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Through ground-breaking research the Annie E. Casey Foundation discovered the likelihood of a student to graduate high school can be predicted by their ability to read at proper grade-level by the completion of third grade.

More studies revealed at least 80% of U.S. children do not read at an adequate level. Children from low-income communities experience more difficultly reading at grade-level than their more-resourced peers. Statistics indicate a school achievement gap between rich and poor students begins even before kindergarten. This discrepancy affects low-income children in several ways, such as losing between two to three months of reading achievement compared to wealthier peers each year. Communities mobilized throughout the United States as similar conclusions and research were shared.

Now more than 130 cities and communities participate in the Campaign, including Philadelphia.

Philadelphia’s Role

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Philadelphia joined the Campaign in December 2013. Mayor Michael A. Nutter leads a new coalition determined, by 2020, to double the amount of School District of Philadelphia third-grade students who read at grade-level by their school year’s close.

Public Citizen’s for Children and Youth and the Urban Affairs Coalition are spearheading a multi-year strategy that will focus on four specific policies:

  • High-quality early learning programs
  • Reduction of school absenteeism
  • Summer reading efforts
  • Alignment of instructional practices from pre-kindergarten to third grade

About 100 organizations support the coalition including: American Reading Company; Boys and Girls Club of Philadelphia; Eagles Youth Partnership; Free Library of Philadelphia; Lenfest Center; Department of Human Services; Department of Parks and Recreation; Philadelphia Reads; Rock to the Future; Salvation Army; and the YMCA.

The Barra Foundation donated $87,000 to plan the coalition’s six-year campaign.

Accomplishments

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Curbing Summer Slide with Free Books

While the committee will release its full strategy to enhance summer reading and city-wide learning opportunities later this year, progress abounds already.

In mid-June Mayor Nutter announced that more than 200,000 books will be given to the 51,200 students enrolled in the Philadelphia School District’s kindergarten through third-grade. The City’s Department of Human Services (DHS) purchased the books, allowing each student to receive four books.

This move will help the students combat summer reading loss, which occurs more frequently among children from low income communities who may not have the funds to purchase books or attend out of school programs during the summer. The books provided by DHS offer a significant step forward to prevent the loss of reading level during the summer, also known as “summer slide.”

Reaching for Increased Literacy Programming

The Department of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation (PPR) program division will soon launch REACH, its new youth development system. Twenty-one PPR facilities will participate in the REACH pilot to test program effectiveness in three pilot objectives:

  • Intentional programming in the five “wellness areas” (environmental awareness, outdoor activities, sports and athletics, arts programming, and fitness and healthy habits)
  • Reduce the summer slide & infuse literacy programming
  • Train youth ages 16-18 to become junior literacy coaches

Specifically, PPR is partnering with the Campaign for Grade Level Reading and the Free Library of Philadelphia to offer literacy programming this summer. PPR will hire seasonal staff to offer engaging activities that reinforces the fun of reading and inspires children to develop a love of reading.

200,000+ New Books for PHL School District K-3 Students

The School District of Philadelphia’s young students received a huge boost that encourage more summer reading.

Mayor NutterToday Mayor Michael A. Nutter announced that the City’s Department of Human Services (DHS) will donate nearly 205,000 books to all K-3 students enrolled in the School District of Philadelphia. As a result 51,200 students will each receive four books before the 2013-4 school year ends.

The initiative supports the Grade Level Reading by Third Grade campaign, led by the Annie. E. Casey Foundation. Research supports the theory that kids who fail to read at an appropriate grade-level by the conclusion of third grade face a significant risk to fall permanently behind their peers. Children who do not read during the summer often experience “summer slide” and regress from reading gains made during the school year.
This scenario affects economically-disadvantaged students more than average because often they don’t have finances for books or educational summer programs.

Today’s announcement is one step closer to bridge the reading-level gap for students enrolled in the School District of Philadelphia.

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