Philadelphia, May 5, 2015 – The City of Philadelphia’s Textizen/Philadelphia2035 community outreach effort and Healthy Chinese Food Take-Out Initiative have been recognized by the Harvard University Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation as Top 10 and Top 25 programs respectively, through the Innovations in American Government Award. The Innovations in American Government Award recognizes the most successful, original and impactful governmental programs at the Federal, state and local levels.
“In Philadelphia, we are constantly striving for innovative practices that push the boundary of how government interacts with and responds to its citizens,” said Mayor Michael A. Nutter. “I would like to congratulate the Philadelphia City Planning Commission and Department of Public Health for their exceptional programs, which are now recognized as national best practices by the Harvard Ash Center. Philadelphia is on the forefront of 21st century governance. These programs improve the lives of our residents and enhance our ongoing work to ensure a high quality of life for all our citizens.”
Named a Top 10 Program, the Textizen platform, which was originally conceived in 2012 via a partnership between the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, and the national nonprofit Code for America, was designed to increase public participation in the Philadelphia2035 long-term city planning effort. The standard model for public engagement in planning has been to schedule meetings, notify participants, and solicit for feedback.
Textizen permits any resident with a cell phone to offer feedback at their leisure regarding the district planning process. The service increased the breadth and depth of public engagement in the planning process and demonstrated how technology could foster more open, efficient, and user-friendly engagement between government and citizens. It has since expanded to nearly 40 cities in sectors from public participation to human services.
“The Commission is committed to working with City residents as partners in Philadelphia’s comprehensive planning process,” said Executive Director Gary J. Jastrzab. “Textizen provided a cutting-edge, yet easy and convenient way for residents to select alternatives and offer feedback on proposed plans for their neighborhoods.”
Declared a Top 25 program, the Philadelphia Healthy Chinese Take-Out Initiative provides professionally-led low sodium cooking training and educational materials, such as low sodium recipes, toolkits and measuring spoons, to participating restaurants. As a result of the Initiative, the sodium content in three popular dishes declined by 13% to 34%, surpassing the program’s initial goal of a 10% to 15% reduction.
Philadelphia has the highest prevalence of hypertension among the 10 largest U.S. cities, affecting 47 percent of African Americans and 31 percent of Hispanics. Chinese take-out restaurants, which are often found in predominantly low-income neighborhoods with high percentages of racial and ethnic minority populations, typically have very high sodium in their prepared food. In an effort to prevent heart attacks and strokes resulting from excess salt consumption, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health partnered with Temple University’s Center for Asian Health, the Asian Community Health Coalition, and the Greater Philadelphia Chinese Restaurant Association to reduce the salt content in dishes served at over 200 Chinese take-out restaurants across the city.
“We are honored to be recognized by the Harvard University Ash Center,” noted Dr. James Buehler, Health Commissioner, City of Philadelphia. “Through the Healthy Chinese Take-Out Initiative, we have shown how government, academia, and the private sector can effectively work together to provide the public with better nutritional choices.”
Founded in 1985, the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation advances excellence in governance and strengthens democratic institutions worldwide. Through its research, education, international programs, and government innovations awards, the Center fosters creative and effective government problem solving and serves as a catalyst for addressing many of the most pressing needs of the world’s citizens. For more information, visit www.ash.harvard.edu.