In the not-so-distant past, government's involvement in community health generally was limited to providing services for treating illness. Today, we increasingly define public health in terms of improving wellness. Guided by data-driven insights, cities and counties are moving as never before to address the root causes of illnesses that disproportionately affect their jurisdictions, allowing for more focused prevention and treatment.
Some policymakers have already had notable success with wellness-based approaches to public health. Oklahoma City famously went from the "fattest" to the "fittest" list in 2012 when its residents, led by the once-portly Mayor Mick Cornett, collectively shed a million pounds and recorded their progress on a website devoted to the project. In 2014, Austin, Texas, worked with Children's Optimal Health, an Austin-based nonprofit, to map body mass index and cardiovascular fitness scores and convene educators, health experts and community members. Other interventions in communities around the country -- such as soda taxes, calorie "nudges" and bike-sharing programs --- have shown tremendous promise for improving public health.