Increasing Collaboration Among Philanthropies to Promote Healthy Communities

Incorporating health issues into programs of the Funders Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities

Many American towns and cities are designed in a way that discourages physical activity. Public health experts agree that community design is at least in part to blame for rising rates of diabetes, obesity and other chronic health conditions.

The Funders' Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities was formed in 1999 to help nonprofit organizations and foundations coordinate their efforts to promote "smart growth"—policies and practices that reduce suburban sprawl and urban disinvestment.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) joined the funders' network in 2001 to encourage partnerships between smart growth proponents and those working to promote active living in their communities.

From 2001 to 2008, the network used three RWJF grants to infuse the health and active living perspective into its programs.

Key Results:

  • The project team held some 20 workshops to educate grantmakers on the relationship between health and the built environment.
  • The project team published several reports on the relationship between health and the built environment, including:
    • Health and Smart Growth: Building Health, Promoting Active Communities
    • Foundations and Real Estate: A Guide for Funders Interested in Building Better Communities