SANTA MONICA—CNN Money reported on the success of Santa Monica’s Wellbeing Project on Sunday, November 13 in an article titled “How Santa Monica is using data to improve residents’ lives.”

The Wellbeing Project originated from Santa Monica’s attempt to address youth concerns five years ago; upon surveying youth within the city, government officials reported that they had discovered some unsettling statistics:

  • Youth were involved in a higher rate of alcohol and drug consumption relative to other youth throughout Los Angeles.
  • 26 percent of middle and high school students reported significant periods of extreme sadness.
  • Among high school students, 17 percent admitted to having suicidal thoughts

The results prompted the city to create a “youth resource team” – which helped those youth most vulnerable connect with job placement and health clinic services.

“There are many services available, but people couldn’t access them,” said Santa Monica’s Assistant Director of Community and Cultural Services Julie Rusk told CNN money.

These early efforts to address youth concerns helped Santa Monica win a $1 million prize from the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge in 2012.  The city saw the prize money “as an opportunity to take the work [they] were doing around youth well-being and scale it to measure well-being across the entire community,” Rusk told CNN Money.

To take on the much larger project of collecting data across all demographics within the city, Santa Monica teamed up with nonprofit research firm RAND Corporation and the U.K. based New Economic Foundation. Santa Monica has since measured the quality of life for all of its residents accounting for factors such as education, stress, health and economic opportunity.

Rusk told CNN Money she has “been contacted by organizations from other cities like Philadelphia and Toronto and is working to produce a playbook to help other communities.”

To read the entire CNN Money article, visit

Visit to learn more about the Wellbeing Project.