April 2004

Grant Results

SUMMARY

PolicyLink, a national nonprofit organization that uses research to advance public policies to achieve economic and social equity, held a summit, Promoting Regional Equity: A National Summit on Equitable Development, Social Justice and Smart Growth, from November 17–19, 2002 in Los Angeles.

The summit was co-organized by the Funders' Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities.

Key Results
Under the grant, PolicyLink accomplished the following:

  • Convened a panel, "Putting Our Best Foot Forward: Creating Active, Healthy Communities," which featured a discussion among experts and local practitioners of how regional equity affects access to physical activity.
  • Developed a 26-page report, Regional Development and Physical Activity: Issues and Strategies for Promoting Health Equity, which identifies key challenges and opportunities for increasing physical activity in low-income communities. The report is available online.

Funding
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) provided a $50,000 grant to support the paper and panel.

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THE PROBLEM

Since the 1950s, regional development patterns in the United States have drawn people, jobs, investments and opportunities out of city centers. Researchers and other experts now connect this pattern of low-density, car-dependent development (suburban sprawl) with people's health and well-being. Low-income populations and communities of color often bear a disproportionate burden of health threats related to regional development patterns. Smart growth refers to development that favors compact communities near transit and preservation of farmland and open space.

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THE PROJECT

Promoting Regional Equity brought together a wide array of experts, community leaders and funders to explore the connection between regional equity and health. See the Appendix for other funders of the summit.

It was not a traditional professional conference, but part of "PolicyLink's strategy for empowerment of isolated grassroots organizations," according to the project director, Victor Rubin. The conference provided opportunities for community leaders working to improve distressed neighborhoods, who operate in relative isolation, to create or solidify alliances among themselves; to focus on longer term change; to develop strategies for influencing federal and state policies; and to make a case to funders about what the field needs. Participants evaluated the summit in overwhelmingly positive terms.

Overall, the summit enabled PolicyLink to redefine the boundaries of "regional equity" as a field and to codify an approach to using community factors to reduce health disparities. Region equity is the concept that adults and children in all communities, particularly in those most affected by poor health, should have equal opportunities to be active and healthy and to live in safe, walkable neighborhoods. Rubin says, "it was the lynchpin event in the third year of a five-year organization. Everything we've done since then turns on it."

The panel "Putting Our Best Foot Forward: Creating Active, Healthy Communities" featured a discussion among experts and local practitioners of how regional equity affects access to physical activity. A 26-page report, "Regional Development and Physical Activity: Issues and Strategies for Promoting Health Equity," identifies key challenges and opportunities for increasing physical activity in low-income communities.

The paper explores the connection between development patterns, physical activity and poor health, and it highlights community-driven strategies in land use, urban design and neighborhood revitalization that support walking and playing in low-income communities. PolicyLink distributed more than 1,000 copies of this report, which can be accessed online. The paper explores the connection between development patterns, physical activity, and poor health. It examines how neighborhoods that have become racially segregated and economically isolated as a result of sprawling development patterns offer few opportunities to be physically active, and how this harms the health of community residents. It highlights policies and organizing efforts to provide the readers with ideas for action.

The panel and the report, "showed that health issues are integrally related to the issues of regional social equity. It was the first meeting where this was presented to this audience," according to Rubin.

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AFTER THE GRANT

PolicyLink and the Funders' Network will convene a second regional equity summit in May 2005 in Philadelphia. PolicyLink continues its work with the California Endowment to develop a program to use community factors and strategies to reduce health disparities. It is also providing technical assistance to two asthma projects funded by the California Endowment that seek to make policy changes to reduce environmental triggers of asthma. PolicyLink also is providing technical assistance to a project at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health that, with funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, is analyzing the success of community-based participatory research in leading to policy change.

With the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies (a nonprofit organization located in Washington that conducts research on public policy issues of concern to African Americans and other minorities), PolicyLink is conducting research to help Latino and African-American community leaders define and engage in a policy agenda on health disparities.

In both Boston and California, community groups that met at the summit have since collaborated on several campaigns to promote state and local legislation to support regional equity. The Massachusetts effort is focused on affordable housing, transportation, civil rights and other issues.

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GRANT DETAILS & CONTACT INFORMATION

Project

National Summit and White Paper on Equitable Development, Social Justice and Smart Growth

Grantee

PolicyLink (Oakland,  CA)

  • Amount: $ 50,000
    Dates: October 2002 to March 2003
    ID#:  046754

Contact

Victor Rubin
(510) 663-2333
vrubin@policylink.org

Web Site

http://www.policylink.org/Research/PhysicalActivity

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APPENDICES


Appendix 1

(Current as of the time of the grant; provided by the grantee organization; not verified by RWJF.)

Other Funders

  • Annie E. Casey Foundation
  • Charles Stewart Mott Foundation
  • East Bay Community Foundation
  • Ford Foundation
  • Hyams Foundation
  • Jacobs Center for NonProfit Innovation
  • Surdna Foundation
  • The California Endowment
  • The California Wellness Foundation
  • The James Irvine Foundation
  • The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
  • The Rockefeller Foundation
  • Washington Mutual

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

(Current as of date of this report; as provided by grantee organization; not verified by RWJF; items not available from RWJF.)

Reports

Flournoy R. Regional Development and Physical Activity: Issues and Strategies for Promoting Health Equity. Oakland, Calif.: PolicyLink, 2002. Also appears online.

Sponsored Conferences

"Promoting Regional Equity: A National Summit on Equitable Development, Social Justice, and Smart Growth," November 17–19, 2000, Los Angeles. Attended by 650 people representing more than 300 organizations. Participants included community organizers, neighborhood and community leaders, regional agencies, state and national policy organization, public officials, faith leaders, academics and foundation representatives. Examples of the organizations represented include the Logan Square Neighborhood Organization, Strategic Concepts in Organizing Policy Education (SCOPE), University of Texas at Austin, Jacobs Center for Nonprofit Innovation, Ford Foundation, Temple University Center for Public Policy, Fannie Mae Foundation, Washington Low Income Housing Network and Faith Center for Community Development. One keynote presentation, 2 panels, 3 forums, 16 workshops and a closing plenary.

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Report prepared by: Antonia Sunderland
Reviewed by: Janet Heroux
Reviewed by: Molly McKaughan
Program Officer: Terry L. Bazzarre

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