Santa Monica's Well-Being Index

Santa Monica tracks citizens’ health, happiness, and quality of life – and it uses this data to drive decision-making.

How a public-private partnership boosted wellbeing in Santa Monica, Calif.
When tragedy struck Santa Monica, Calif., in the form of a gang shooting and very public 9th-grade student’s suicide, people in the California community of nearly 100,000 began to ask how something…
Santa Monica: the first city in the world to measure its residents' wellbeing | Apolitical
What is the purpose of government? There are countless partial answers. To keep people safe. To support business. To fill in potholes. But what’s the overarching purpose? That’s what Santa Monica, a community of around 100,000 people just west of Los Angeles, asked itself in 2014. The answer they came to was deceptively simple: to improve the wellbeing of their residents. It’s feel-good and hard...
A California City Measured Residents’ Well-Being For 4 Years. What Lawmakers Discovered Surprised Them. | HuffPost
Santa Monica officials decided to look at more than just economic prosperity when gauging their citizens' success.
  • Santa Monica was awarded $1 million in 2013 by Bloomberg philanthropies to launch The Wellbeing Project.
  • The city partnered with the RAND Corporation and the New Economics Foundation to identify and measure the key factors contributing to citizen wellbeing.
  • City leaders are using ongoing findings from the project to design policies that will help residents thrive physically, emotionally, and economically.
Project Summary
Among the five winners of the first Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge, Santa Monica was awarded $1 million in 2013 to launch The Wellbeing Project. Cities typically judge their success on the basis of economics; but Santa Monica wanted to start making decisions based on citizens’ overall well-being. With The Wellbeing Project, Santa Monica set out to define and measure the factors contributing to urban health – and use the findings to drive policies that would improve quality of life throughout the city.
Santa Monica began by partnering with the RAND Corporation, the New Economics Foundation, and global experts to research the dynamics impacting citizen wellbeing. The team identified six key factors –health, outlook, community, economic opportunity, environment, demographics, and learning – and measured them through surveys, social media, and public records. The findings were used to create the Wellbeing Index, a compilation of statistics that provide a benchmark for understanding well-being in the community. The first Wellbeing Index was published publicly in 2015.
The city has since continued to gather data and refine its approach, and in 2017 it published the second Wellbeing Index. The project revealed a number of areas with room for improvement. For example, the 2017 Index showed that only 38% of citizens were active for more than 20 minutes per day. It also highlighted that fresh fruit and vegetable consumption was particularly low, at roughly half the national average.
In response, Santa Monica is using the findings of the Wellbeing Project to drive decision-making, with the goal of enhancing wellbeing for all citizens. To tackle the dietary problem, city officials worked with fruit and vegetable vendors to make farmers markets more welcoming to low income citizens. The city is also piloting a new fitness program, giving fitbits to 200 residents to encourage them to be more active.
Looking to the future, Santa Monica is working to embed the wellbeing philosophy into the heart of its planning and budgeting. In the coming years, the Wellbeing Index may help the city tackle deeper issues such as the lower levels of health and education attainment among minority groups.
Other local governments are already looking to mimic Santa Monica’s success. Santa Monica is currently working with Miami and Louisville, and it has written a guidebook for other cities interested in creating their own Wellbeing Index.
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Project Website
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