Indicator CC.1.g Neighborhood block parties

Cities


Descriptive Title: Number of neighborhood block party permits

Why Is This An Indicator Of Health and Sustainability?

Neighborhood block parties provide an opportunity for residents to spend time together and build social ties. Social networks and social integration are beneficial to health: Healthy People 2010 asserts that the social environment—including interactions with family, friends, coworkers, and others in the community—has a "profound effect on individual health."b

For example, social support can buffer people from the negative psychological effects of life stress.c One review of over 100 studies concluded that social support for pregnant women improves fetal growth.d Other studies have found women who receive social support have healthier babies, fewer complications in pregnancy and birth, and less postpartum depression.e Emile Durkheim's work on suicide showed that the lowest rates of suicide occurred in societies with the highest degrees of social integration.f In Alameda County in 1979, researchers found that men and women who lacked ties to others were 1.9 to 3.1 times more likely to die during the follow-up period than those who had many contacts.g Other studies have linked specific health conditions—such as strokes, death from cardiovascular disease, and the common cold—to having fewer social ties.c,h

Neighborhoods in which residents feel social cohesiveness toward their neighbors (through mutual trust and exchanges of aid) tend to have lower mortality rates compared to neighborhoods that do not have strong social bonds.i

Methods

This indicator represents permits issued by the Interdepartmental Staff Committee on Traffic and Transportation (ISCOTT) for neighborhood block parties during 2010. The permit allows for the closure of a section of a street to traffic during a neighborhood block party, which ISCOTT defines as a one-block closure with no intersection closures. The closure must be "sponsored by a neighborhood organization or an individual who lives on the block to be closed."a There is a fee for the permit, but it is lower than the fees for other types of street closures. More information, including the application for temporary street closures, is available at: http://www.sfmta.com/cms/vclos/strclos.htm.

Larger street fairs, which require a different permit for street closure, are not included in this indicator. Because the permits are required only for street closures, any neighborhood parties that took place without street closures are also not included.

Limitations

Neighborhood social cohesion is not a time-static concept. Residents moving into and out of a neighborhood can impact the social dynamics among neighbors as well as the momentum behind block party coordination. While this indicator provides a snapshot of the block parties held in San Francisco in a single year, it does not provide any information about long-term trends in the frequency and locations of block parties.

The organization of block parties depends upon motivated individuals or organizations that are able not only to devote time to planning them, but also to raise adequate funds. It is not possible to tell from the information in this indicator who was responsible for organizing the various block parties.

The number of neighborhood block parties is one among many possible indicators of social cohesion within a neighborhood. Taken alone, the existence of neighborhood block parties does not necessarily mean that a neighborhood is socially cohesive. Similarly, it is possible for a neighborhood to be socially cohesive even if no block parties take place there.

In general, neighborhood-level indicators may obscure ethnic, class, or other differences among the neighborhood population. For example, block parties may indicate good social cohesion among some groups, but others may not be able to participate or may choose not to participate for a variety of reasons, such as the language(s) spoken, food provided, time of day, cultural or religious preferences, or physical accessibility. Thus social cohesion may be advanced for some groups while others may feel excluded.

  1. ISCOTT. 2005. Temporary Street Closure Filing Information. Available at: http://www.sfmta.com/cms/vclos/documents/SpecialEventStreetClosureInfo.pdf. Retrieved 7/29/2008.
  2. Healthy People 2010, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Available at: http://www.healthypeople.gov/
  3. Cohen S, Underwood LG, Gottlieb BH, eds. 2000. Social Support Measurement and Intervention: A Guide for Health and Social Scientists. New York: Oxford University Press.
  4. Kawachi I, Colditz GA, Ascherio A, Rimm EB, Giovannucci E, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC. 1999. A Prospective study of social networks in relation to total mortality and cardiovascular disease incidence in men in the United States. Pp. 184-194 in The Society and Population Health Reader. Volume I: Income Inequality and Health, eds. I. Kawachi, BP Kennedy, RG Wilkinson. New York: The New Press.
  5. Berkman LF. 1999. The Role of social relations in health promotion. Pp. 172-183 in The Society and Population Health Reader. Volume I: Income Inequality and Health, eds. I. Kawachi, BP Kennedy, RG Wilkinson. New York: The New Press.
  6. Berkman LF, Kawachi I. 2000. A Historical Framework for Social Epidemiology. Chapter 1 in Social Epidemiology. New York: Oxford University Press.
  7. Berkman LF, Syme SL. 1979. Social networks, host resistance and mortality: a nine-year follow up study of Alameda County residents. American Journal of Epidemiology 109:186-204.
  8. Cohen C, Doyle WJ, Skoner DP, Rabin BS, Gwaltney JM. 1997. Social ties and susceptibility to the common cold. JAMA 277(24):1940-1944.
  9. Lochner KA, Kawachi I, Brennan RT, Buka SL. Social capital and neighborhood mortality rates in Chicago. Social Science & Medicine. 2003;56(8):1797-1805.