A Project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Reinvestment Fund

Monday, May 23, 2016

Initiative Seeks to Improve Health in Low-Income Neighborhoods

Fifty mid-size cities have been selected to take part in Invest Health, an initiative aimed at improving health in low-income neighborhoods.

Reinvestment Fund and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) announced that the communities will receive grants of $60,000 each to help them address the key drivers of health such as access to affordable housing.

Applicants were required to form five-member teams, including representatives from the public sector, community development, and an anchor institution, preferably academic or health-related.

“Public officials, community developers, and many others have been working in low-income neighborhoods for years, but they haven’t always worked together,” said Donald Schwarz, RWJF vice president, program. “Invest Health aims to align their work and help neighborhoods thrive by intentionally incorporating health into community development.”

One of the selected cities is Napa, Calif., where the Sec. 8 waiting list is 9,500 names long. To help ease the crunch, city officials plan to work with Satellite Affordable Housing Associates and others to develop innovative low-income and supportive housing solutions.

For other cities, the focus may be education, food production and systems, transportation, or safety. Teams plan to explore a broad range of ideas from reducing isolation of residents and creating retail hubs to decreasing the number of abandoned properties and related crime as well as improving walkability.

The initiative focuses on cities with populations between 50,000 and 400,000. Mid-size American cities face some of the nation’s deepest challenges with entrenched poverty, poor health, and a lack of investment. But they also offer fertile ground for strategies that improve health and have the potential to boost local economies, according to initiative leaders.

“With a long history in community development finance, we are excited to help create a pipeline to channel capital into low-income communities through public and private investments,” said Amanda High, chief of strategic initiatives at Reinvestment Fund. “Our goal is to transform how cities approach tough challenges, share lessons learned, and spur creative collaboration.”

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by Donna Kimura