How Can We Use Local Data to Address the Impacts of Structural Racism on Community Health?

Apr 4, 2022, 10:45 AM, Posted by

Thirty-five local non-profits will be awarded up to $40K to work with local data to dismantle structural racism via a new funding opportunity.

Editor's note: This funding opportunity is now closed. 

Columbus, Ohio redlining map. A redlining map from 1936. In communities throughout the nation, there is strong correlation between redlined places and worse health outcomes.

The COVID-19 pandemic reinforced how place matters for health. Some communities have the conditions needed to help their residents thrive—like safe streets and parks, safe and affordable housing, and access to healthy foods. But too many communities—particularly places where people of color and those with low incomes live—have lacked these resources. This lack of resources is a result of the legacies of structural racism, such as redlining that shaped the socio-economic trajectories of communities, and modern-day racist practices, like systemic disinvestment from communities of color.

To inform efforts to improve community conditions shaped by structural racism, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has released a call for proposals (CFP). In order to best represent the voices of those most impacted by societal injustices, we aim to meaningfully engage community organizations. Up to 35 local non-profit organizations will be awarded up to $40,000 over nine months.

Who Should Apply

We are searching for local non-profit organizations that meet the following criteria:

Local: Projects must focus on neighborhoods, cities, counties, or metropolitan areas within the United States.

Community-Driven: Projects should meaningfully engage with community members to address the issues that matter to them. This could include collaborating with community members to define questions of interest; determine what data and analysis are needed; collect, analyze, and interpret data; share data in accessible formats; and/or translate findings for local audiences.

Timely: Applicants must complete projects within a nine-month period, and data should be connected to near-term decision-making and action. We recognize that the changes needed to address community conditions shaped by structural racism are going to take time. This grant opportunity is intended to catalyze initiatives and collaborations working with community members to bring about these changes.

The Urban Institute is collaborating with us on program design and documenting lessons for the field. Technical assistance will be available to grantees, including reviewing data collection instruments and protocols, consultations with subject matter experts, and referrals to tools and examples that are relevant to grant projects. 

How Communities Have Used Data to Advance Health Equity

This CFP builds on RWJF's earlier effort to provide timely support for the use of data to inform local COVID-19 response and recovery. Examples of relevant projects include: 

Meeting Urgent Needs: Para Los Niños (PLN) in Los Angeles, worked to close gaps in pandemic response systems and met immediate community needs with resources such as food, diapers, educational materials, and cleaning supplies. And through surveys, interviews, and quantitative data, PLN partnered with residents and community organizations to learn more about challenges in the community—such as food and housing insecurity, transportation gaps, and mental health. Drawing on their deep partnership and trust with the community, PLN worked with residents to use what they learned to organize the community (virtually) and develop a Community Bill of Human Rights that sets a long-term advocacy and policy agenda. “We recognized that if basic needs were not being met, communities could not lead systems-change efforts,” said Brenda Aguilera, director of community transformation at Para Los Niños.

Tackling the Child-Care ConundrumStarting Point, partnering with Case Western Reserve University, analyzed survey and demographic data in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, at the neighborhood level to identify where large gaps exist between available child-care slots and the projected demand for care as parents tried to return to work following the pandemic shutdown. Resulting data, which were interpreted and presented in a Story Map in consultation with child-care providers and families, informed a successful advocacy effort to get child-care workers priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine, and continues to shape the local child-care industry’s response to the pandemic.

Making Free Mental Health Services Accessible: Cook County Family Connection (CCFC) used survey data to document the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on residents and families across rural Cook County, Georgia. The resulting "Rural Voices" report reveals the challenges residents were facing in food security, physical health, mental health, employment, and child care and education. Analyses of the data revealed a three-fold increase in mental distress during the pandemic. In response, the local mental health agency assigned a full-time therapist to serve students in Cook County schools. CCFC also raised awareness about crisis counseling resources, and delivered a series of trauma-informed care workshops for their community partners.

Bringing Healthy Food to the Community: Urban Harvest, working with the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University, gathered quantitative data and qualitative community input on local residents’ food access, food choices, and shopping behaviors. They learned that many residents would prefer to purchase food grown locally by small farmers, but they were largely unaware of local food markets or didn’t know how to access resources to make it affordable. Through this initiative, they identified schools, churches, and community centers in areas with high food insecurity and deployed mobile food markets where they were needed most. They continue to use these data to raise awareness of food insecurity and encourage innovative solutions to providing healthy, affordable food.

The progress that these organizations have made demonstrates the power of pairing relevant data with community engagement.

Read more stories on the last round of data work in collaboration with Urban Institute.

 

About the Authors

George Hobor

George Hobor, is a senior program officer working to promote healthy, more equitable communities. George is committed to building the capacity of the nonprofit and public sectors to use data and research in their program and policy development, and to advancing a broader conception of health that extends beyond the healthcare system. 

Wojcik Staff Photo

Oktawia Wójcik, is senior program officer. A distinguished epidemiologist, Oktawia's work focuses on driving demand for healthy places and practices and building a Culture of Health through research that informs both grantmaking and broader health-related policy and practice.