Why Health, Poverty, and Community Development Are Inseparable

Today, one in six Americans lives in poverty. A new book, Open Forum: Voices and Opinions from Leaders in Policy, the Field, and Academia, includes chapters by RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, and several other leading experts in policy, finance, education, and other fields, who explore the complexities of poverty, and examine what it takes to build vibrant communities that help people lead healthy, productive lives.

The book stresses the growing need for collaboration across disciplines and offers innovative new approaches to address poverty and help build healthier communities—such as by connecting people with affordable housing, good schools, transportation, jobs, and access to healthful foods and safe public spaces.

“To effectively reduce poverty and poor health ... we now know that we must address both, as well as the contributing factors they share,” Lavizzo-Mourey says in her chapter, entitled Investing in What Works for America’s Communities. “We have learned that factors that are integral to poverty, such as insufficient education, inadequate housing, racism, and food insecurity, are also indicators of poor health. We know that a child’s life expectancy is predicted more by his ZIP code than his genetic code.”