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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 Link

This 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 Ads

The 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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