The root causes of poor health experienced by many who live in low-income neighborhoods—such as the lack of access to health care, limited food choices and exposure to environmental hazards—are well documented, but often go beyond the scope of the health care delivery system. But that is beginning to change.
The health sector has begun to collaborate with the community development sector, which for decades has been working in low-income neighborhoods. Encouraging local and national examples of these new partnerships abound. They include an effort in Seattle, Washington, to reduce exposure to allergens and irritants among low-income asthmatic children, and a $500 million federal program to finance the operation of grocery stores in what have previously been urban “food deserts.”
To nurture such efforts, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Federal Reserve System and others have sponsored a series of “healthy community” forums in U.S. cities. In this article we explore the growing partnerships between the health and community development sectors as well as the challenges they face, and we offer policy recommendations that might help them succeed.