Quality of life for Anchorage residents is great for some, not so good for others.
That insight comes from the latest United Way of Anchorage Envision Anchorage Community Assessment Project (CAP) report, which in 2006 began compiling quality of life indicators for Anchorage. The initial findings drove action by UWA and its community partners to improve the lives of our fellow residents.
But how has Anchorage fared since that report? How healthy are we currently as a community and as individuals? Are we preparing our children for graduation? And what’s the next step in continuing to build a better Anchorage?
June Sobocinski, United Way’s Vice President of Community Action says, “We strive to keep our finger on the pulse of this community and gather information that we can turn into action. The first report gave us a great starting point to set shared community goals, coordinate our actions, and produce change. Now with updated information, we are in an even better position to keep our eye on the goals and to help make Anchorage a better place to live.”
One benefit to periodically gathering data is that the information provides a foundation for mobilizing shared, integrated actions and investments to improve Anchorage. For example, when the 2006 CAP report documented alarming statistics involving high school graduation rates and teen drinking, United Way, the Anchorage School District and other partners galvanized community action by creating the Anchorage United for Youth plan.
Since then, the 90 percent by 2020 graduation rate goal has been set, action is underway, and the high school graduation rate has improved from 65 percent to 73 percent. Moreover, high school student binge drinking has diminished significantly from 27.9 percent to 20.5 percent within the last six years of reported data.
Release of the new CAP report during United Way’s February Financial Stability month shines a spotlight on challenges many of our neighbors struggle to navigate daily. In addition, it takes a comprehensive view and offers baseline information in the areas of health, education, and income – UWA’s goals for advancing the common good.
However, some of the trends discovered within the report are disconcerting. For example, 17 percent of Anchorage residents reported having to go without basic needs in the last year, up from 13 percent in 2009. And, 34 percent are spending too much of their income for housing to be considered as financially stable under federal guidelines. So it’s no surprise to see that the most common unmet need reported by Alaska 2-1-1, United Way’s statewide health and human services help line, is for rent and utility assistance.
Furthermore, data shows the number of Anchorage homeless children served by the Anchorage School District has increased by 42 percent within just the last five years.
Other statistics have improved, but not enough. For example, our high school students are continuing to struggle with being overweight or obese. Four years ago, 28.7 percent of high school students were reported to have significant weight problems. That number has dropped slightly to 27.1 percent for 2011, although it still remains slightly below the national levels.
In addition to providing a comprehensive view of Anchorage’s quality of life, the CAP report can also assist volunteers find segments of the community that need the greatest help. Nonprofits can recruit those volunteers by learning what issues need the most attention. And commerce leaders can look beyond national economic reports to discover trends and community perceptions regarding their local economy.
The complete version of the 2012 CAP report is available on line at: www.LiveUnitedAnchorage.org