Research has shown compassion and social connectedness can positively influence personal health as predictors of longer life, faster recovery from disease and higher levels of happiness and well-being. Measuring compassion in order to determine more closely what constitutes compassionate behavior among communities, however, has proved more difficult — up to now.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, joined by representatives of the University of Louisville and local and international compassion organizations, have announced a new Compassionate Cities Index. The index, a research project from UofL’s Institute for Sustainable Health & Optimal Aging, in partnership with Louisville Metro Government, the University of Louisville School of Medicine, the International Center for Compassionate Cities, Compassionate Louisville and the International Charter for Compassion, is a comprehensive study designed to measure compassion at the city level within the context of individual communities.
Fischer and the Louisville Metro Council formally committed to the international Charter for Compassion in 2011, and on Dec. 6 was named a Model City for Compassion for the fifth year in a row by the Charter of Compassion.
Louisville was honored for its focus on compassion and for programs such as the Mayor’s Give A Day Week of Service, and the success of Compassionate Louisville, a grassroots network of organizations that have adopted the Compassion Resolution.
“Compassion is one of our three city pillars, reflecting our commitment to ensuring that all in our city have the opportunity and resources necessary to reach their full human potential,” Fischer said. “We are honored to be named a model for that work, and we’re excited about this new tool for measuring that work.”
The Compassionate Cities Index carries this work further by defining and measuring the components that make cities compassionate. Drs. Joe D’Ambrosio and Anna Faul, both with the Institute of Sustainable Health & Optimal Aging, plan a comprehensive study that looks beyond dollars donated and hours volunteered, to measure how people feel and act with compassion within the context of their specific community.
“This study is unique because we are capturing both subjective and objective measures that indicate compassion,” said Faul, who is executive director of the institute. Data will be gathered from the 37 standard ZIP codes in Jefferson County, with the goal of 67 survey responses per ZIP code.
D’Ambrosio, director of health innovation and sustainability for the institute, explained the goals of the research: “This will allow us to understand how people practice compassion within the context of their neighborhood and examine how the city as a whole is promoting a culture of compassion.”
“The Compassionate Cities Index answers the call from cities around the world for an adaptable tool that measures their definition of compassion. It is an honor for Louisville to be the first location to implement the Index,” said Corinne Witzel of the International Center for Compassionate Cities.
“There is a strong correlation between individual health and the quality of life for a community’s citizens as they grow older. Compassion is a key component of both quality of health and quality of life. This index will provide valuable guideposts for improving wellbeing for all of us at every stage of our lives,” said Toni Ganzel, MD, MBA, dean of the UofL School of Medicine.
Participants in the study must be over the age of 18 residing in Jefferson County. Participants can complete the survey online or contact the institute at (502) 852-5228 to receive a paper survey to complete.