Hartford has won a $60,000 grant as one of 50 mid-size U.S. cities chosen to participate in an 18-month project exploring ways to improve health and access for low-income residents.

The city was one of 180 teams from 170 communities with populations between 50,000 and 400,000 that applied to Philadelpha-based The Reinvestment Fund and New Jersey-based Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to participate in their Invest Health initiative, Hartford Mayor Luke Brunin announced Wednesday.

Each team was asked to recruit five members, including a representative from the public sector, a community development expert and an anchor institution, preferably academic or health-related.

Over the next 18 months, officials said, Invest Health teams will take part in a vibrant learning community, have access to highly skilled faculty advisors and coaches who will guide their efforts toward improved health, and receive a $60,000 grant.

Hartford also will engage a broader group of local stakeholders to encourage local knowledge sharing, they said. Learning from the program will be synthesized and disseminated through the project website.

Hartford’s projects will explore a broad range of ideas. Project teams will travel to Philadelphia for a kick-off meeting on June 7 and will meet regularly to share lessons learned throughout the 18-month project.

“This is great news,” Bronin said in a statement. “It’s a testament to the hard work happening in our community by civic, nonprofit, and corporate partners to improve overall health and eliminate health inequities citywide.”

Invest Health is aimed at transforming how leaders from mid-size American cities work together to help low-income communities thrive, with specific attention to community features that drive health such as access to safe and affordable housing, places to play and exercise, and quality jobs.

“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, M.D., program vice president at the foundation.¬†“Invest Health aims to align their work and help neighborhoods thrive by intentionally incorporating health into community development.”

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by Gregory Seay