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Health Research Factors for Well City Challenge Themes 


The Well City Challenge will focus on supporting solutions within three categories that research has shown to be driving factors of physical health and mental health outcomes. 


Community and Social Connection 

During the pandemic, stay-at-home orders and social distancing put a pause on in-person socializing, including group gatherings of any size, neighborhood activities, and public events. Maintaining these protocols to some extent as we slowly enter the phase of reopening is important but can continue to put one’s physical and mental health at risk.i Ongoing research supports the positive health benefits of social connectedness.ii Engaging with your networks and partaking in social activities are proven to have the following health benefits, including longer life; stronger immune system; being happier; improved memory and cognitive skills; increased motivation for self-care; lower levels of stress hormones. It is important we are aware of the effects that the absence of both physical and emotional contact can cause and have strategies in place for maintaining relationships with family, friends, and peers.iii iv 

Because of this, we are seeking ideas on how to experience Community and Social Connections while following CDC guidelines. The ideas could be through technology and social media or outdoor activities that are compliant with social distancing. 


Food and Nutrition 

What and how we eat has a considerable influence on our health. Dietary factors are associated with a substantial proportion of deaths from heart disease, stroke, and complications from type 2 diabetes.v Poor diet can also be detrimental to mental health—food insecurity and low fruit and vegetable intake are demonstrated to be significant predictors of depression in young adults, and food insecurity and high sugar intake are substantial predictors of anxiety in college-going adults.vi Research has demonstrated that improvements in diet can reduce depressive symptoms.vii Our eating habits can also impact our health—eating dinner with others is significantly associated with several markers of better dietary intake, including higher intakes of fruit, vegetables, and dark-green and orange vegetables.viii This, of course, is difficult to do while complying with social distancing. We are seeking ideas for collaborative, community-oriented ventures that capitalize on the intimate relationship between food and health to address millennial health and mental health in Philadelphia. 



Proactive care of our bodies and minds results in a wide range of health benefits. Regular physical activity has been shown to prevent chronic disease and improve overall health outcomes.ix Regular exercise benefits mental health as well as physical health—consistent yoga practice, for example, has been shown to result in significant decreases in self-reported symptoms of depression and treat anxiety in young adults.x Mindfulness meditation is also associated with health benefits, with research demonstrating that regular meditation practice results in decreased levels of depression, anxiety, and stress.xi Meditation practices may even impact physiological pathways that are modulated by stress and relevant to disease.xii Because engagement in physical activity and mindfulness are closely tied to health outcomes, we are looking for innovative, collaborative solutions that expand millennial participation in physical activity and mindfulness practices. 




Sources Cited 

i Social Connection During COVID-19 posted on April 6, 2020 by Eliana Meyer, Mental Health Center of Denver 

ii Social Connection in a Time of Social Distancing, UC Health, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, 

iii Maintaining human connection in time of social distancing, March 23, 2020 Mayo Clinic Health Systems 

iv Dienlin, T., Masur, P. K., Trepte, S. (2017) Reinforcement or displacement? The reciprocity of FTF, IM, and SNS communication and their effects on loneliness and life satisfaction, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 22(2), 71–87, https://doi.org/10.1111/jcc4.12183

v Bowler, D.E., Buyung-Ali, L.M., Knight, T.M. et al. A systematic review of evidence for the added benefits to health of exposure to natural environments. BMC Public Health 10, 456 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-10-456 

v Astell-Burt T, Mitchell R, Hartig T. The association between green space and mental health varies across the lifecourse. A longitudinal study. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2014 Jun;68(6):578-83. doi: 10.1136/jech-2013-203767. v Astell-Burt T, Mitchell R, Hartig T. The association between green space and mental health varies across the lifecourse. A longitudinal study. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2014 Jun;68(6):578-83. doi: 10.1136/jech-2013-203767. 

v Maas J, Verheij RA, de Vries S, et al. Morbidity is related to a green living environment. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health 2009;63:967-973. https://jech.bmj.com/content/63/12/967 

v Lachowycz K, Jones AP. Greenspace and obesity: a systematic review of the evidence. Obes Rev. 2011 May;12(5):e183-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2010.00827.x. 

v Micha R, Peñalvo JL, Cudhea F, Imamura F, Rehm CD, Mozaffarian D. Association Between Dietary Factors and Mortality From Heart Disease, Stroke, and Type 2 Diabetes in the United States. JAMA. 2017 Mar 7;317(9):912-924. doi: 10.1001/jama.2017.0947. PubMed PMID: 28267855; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5852674. 

vi Wattick RA, Hagedorn RL, Olfert MD. Relationship between Diet and Mental Health in a Young Adult Appalachian College Population. Nutrients. 2018 Jul 25;10(8). pii: E957. doi: 10.3390/nu10080957. PubMed PMID: 30044399; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6115820. 

vii Firth J, Marx W, Dash S, Carney R, Teasdale SB, Solmi M, Stubbs B, Schuch FB, Carvalho AF, Jacka F, Sarris J. The Effects of Dietary Improvement on Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Psychosom Med. 2019 Apr;81(3):265-280. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0000000000000673. PubMed PMID: 30720698; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6455094. 

viii Larson NI, Nelson MC, Neumark-Sztainer D, Story M, Hannan PJ. Making time for meals: meal structure and associations with dietary intake in young adults. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009 Jan;109(1):72-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2008.10.017. PubMed PMID: 


ix Warburton, D. E., Nicol, C. W., & Bredin, S. S. (2006). Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l'Association medicale canadienne, 174(6), 801–809. doi:10.1503/cmaj.051351 

x Woolery A, Myers H, Sternlieb B, Zeltzer L. A yoga intervention for young adults with elevated symptoms of depression. Altern Ther Health Med. 2004 Mar-Apr;10(2):60-3. PubMed PMID: 15055096. 

xi Schreiner, I., & Malcolm, J. (2008). The Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation: Changes in Emotional States of Depression, Anxiety, and Stress. Behaviour Change, 25(3), 156-168. doi:10.1375/bech.25.3.156 

xii Pace, T. W., Negi, L. T., Adame, D. D., Cole, S. P., Sivilli, T. I., Brown, T. D., … Raison, C. L. (2009). Effect of compassion meditation on neuroendocrine, innate immune and behavioral responses to psychosocial stress. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 34(1), 87–98. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2008.08.011