02/21/2013 05:47 pm ET Updated Apr 23, 2013

Healthy Chicago: Past, Present and Future

It's been 18 months... time flies.

Back in August 2011, newly-elected Mayor Rahm Emanuel and I released Healthy Chicago, the first comprehensive public health agenda for our city. The initiative laid out strategies for addressing 12 public health priorities including obesity, tobacco, HIV prevention and heart health. This agenda is pretty ambitious. We identified 193 strategies to implement to make Chicago the healthiest city in the nation.

Since then, a lot has happened.

From installing healthy vending machines to creating more smoke-free spaces across the city, Chicago is leading the way with one of the most comprehensive, multi-faceted public health agendas in the country, creating healthier environments so Chicagoans can make smart and healthy choices.

We are already seeing dividends from all the hard work.

By partnering with the Respiratory Health Association, the list of smoke-free campuses (colleges, hospitals, behavioral health centers, etc...) continues to grow. Also, for the first time ever, the Chicago Housing Authority has designated four housing developments as smoke-free! We worked with the Chicago City Council to increase fines for illegal cigarette sales and also banned future tobacco vending machine licenses (yes, they still existed!).

We've also made significant advances on the obesity prevention front. The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) installed 27 miles of protected bike lanes, created two miles of other on-street bikeways, made 7 bridges bicycle-friendly, and added 500 new bike racks across Chicago. We've partnered with the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection to pass a mobile produce cart ordinance. NeighborCarts, the brainchild of NeighborCapital, are freestanding kiosks offering great fruits and vegetables at a great price. Fourteen NeighborCarts are scheduled to open in the spring (check out this map) and we expect 30 to be operational by summer.

To improve adolescent health in Chicago, we partnered with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to pass a new Competitive Foods Policy and a revised School Wellness Policy. We have also started leveraging new grants to address teen dating violence and teen pregnancy.

I shared with you some advancements made on a few of our Healthy Chicago priorities, but I encourage you to check out the 2012 Annual Report to get all the details. Our work is focused on policy, system and environmental change in our city.

While individual behavior is important, it's a lot more important for us to change the way our City behaves. With more bike lanes, food access opportunities, and breast-feeding friendly hospitals -- and with less junk food, tobacco, and teenage pregnancies -- I believe we are well on our way to a healthier Chicago!

We've been working hard on Healthy Chicago, and we want to know what you think. Don't be shy! As always, follow us on Twitter (@ChiPublicHealth) for the latest updates from the Chicago Department of Public Health.