Recent studies I have reviewed show strong evidence that culture and health go hand-in-hand: individuals that participate in culture tend to be healthier and exhibit greater well-being, and the same goes for communities. (For examples, see "Creative Health" and "The Social Wellbeing of New York City's Neighborhoods.")
So looking at state and municipal rankings on health and wellbeing can be incredibly useful for considering how museums can make significant contributions to their communities through the lens of their missions.
To get a sense of those rankings, here's a quick roundup. I encourage you to check out how your state or city scores, and then consider how your museum, working alone, with other museums, or with community partners, might help address areas of weakness.
State of American Well-Being: 2017 State Well-Being Rankings
What it is: National survey by Gallup • Sharecare to capture well-being across five dimensions:
Sadly, the national index score decreased from 2016 to 2017, with 21 individual states showing declines and no states showing a statistically significant improvement. The biggest declines nationally are in the "purpose" and "social" dimensions. I've seen evidence of this in my client work as well, when working with the broader population. There is an exhaustion that is, in part, due to the political and news cycles, but in other parts due to the relentlessness of the challenges of modern life. To be honest, I was surprised there wasn't a decline in the "community" dimension as well.
Full citation: "State of American Well-Being: 2017 State Well-Being Rankings." Gallup • Sharecare. February 2018.
State of American Well-Being: 2017 Community Well-Being Rankings
What it is: The same research from the "State of American Well-Being" report, but broken down by cities.
Interesting notes: 17 of the top 25 communities are in only five states, while about half of the lowest 25 communities are in the South. Overall, well-being is higher for people in urban areas than rural areas, for a variety of reasons from access to resources to socio-economic patterns. But on the flip side, community well-being tends to increase as the population size decreases, so there are pros and cons for both rural and urban areas.
Like in the state-based report, page six shares best-practices to consider, some of which may be mission-appropriate for museums.
Full citation: "State of American Well-Being: 2017 Community Well-Being Rankings." Gallup • Sharecare. March 2018.
America's Health Rankings: Annual Report 2017
What it is: An assessment of health that looks across 35 measures, including clinical care and policy, but also behaviors, community, and environment. The emphasis is on complete health, looking at physical, mental, and social well-being. Similar to the "State of American Well-Being," this assessment had troubling decreases in health outcomes, primarily rising rates of premature death.
Head straight to page eleven, where you can see the ranking to gain an immediate snapshot of how your state is doing. And then flip over to page fourteen, as it breaks down state rankings through the lenses of behavior, community and environment, policy, clinical care, and health outcomes. Full-page reports on each state start on p. 109.
The report also examines critical health issues, how socio-economic status relates to health outcomes, and then compares the US to other countries. Much of this is only tangentially relevant to museums (though could make interesting exhibits and programs for science centers or for history museums looking at them through a historical lens). There were a few things, however, that museums may be able to work with partners to address, such as:
Full citation: "America's Health Rankings: Annual Report 2017. United Health Foundation. December 2017.
I respectfully acknowledge that I live and work on the lands of the Duwamish people, whose ancestors have lived here for generations. I thank them for their ongoing care of this land, and I endeavor to help museums bring forward a more complete and inclusive history and culture in their work.