New Network Unites Community Leaders to Improve Health

Dec 10, 2014, 12:55 PM

The Build Healthy Places Network, an innovative resource to improve health outcomes in low-income communities, launched during the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association.

This groundbreaking network sits at the intersection of public health and community development. The goal of the network is to expand our collective understanding of the social determinants that impact public health and catalyze action. In so doing, the Build Healthy Places Network hopes to create new models and develop new tools to help leaders of low-income communities and create a Culture of Health where every individual lives the healthiest life possible.

Already, cutting edge work is being done in the public health sphere to begin addressing the many factors that impact health. As Douglas Jutte, MD, MPH, the Network’s executive director, recently described, the Network is designed to aggregate the work being done to help build a knowledge base for every community to use. 

“The concept is derived from a series of conferences that the Federal Reserve System has held focusing on both health and community development,” said Jutte. “There was a growing recognition that there needs to be a support system to build bridges between these two distinct sectors. While the conferences were a good start, we saw the opportunity for a network to help build these cross-sectoral connections and keep this field of collaboration moving forward.”

The Network’s website includes resources such as primers on improving the health of communities and stories about communities that are already uniting community development experts and public health experts to build a Culture of Health.

Jutte says a lot of the successes in the field currently are anecdotal and people working in the field often come up them “accidentally.”

“You hear about this amazing work that someone is doing in some corner of a faraway state and that really should end because we have the ability to share that kind of knowledge,” says Jutte.

He continued, “A key goal is to move health and community development from their siloes to collaboration. The Network will serve as a clearing house to bring together stories and evidence and examples of collaboration in communities.”  

Going forward, the Network plans to “synthesize” what is known and what the good examples are “so that we can help communities and leaders who are not even sure where to start, to really understand what’s going on in terms of new models with a focus on measurement, policy, finance and investment,” Jutte said.  

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.