Princeton, N.J.—Reinvestment Fund and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) today announced $3 million in awards across 50 mid-size cities in 31 states for Invest Health, an initiative aimed at transforming how city leaders work together to help low-income communities thrive, with specific attention to community features that drive health such as access to safe and affordable housing, places to play and exercise, and quality jobs.
More than 180 teams from 170 communities applied for grants of $60,000 each, which were available to cities with populations between 50,000 and 400,000. Applicants were required to form five-member teams including representatives from the public sector, community development, and an anchor institution, preferably academic or health-related. Selected teams also include members from public school districts, community organizations, and local philanthropies.
“Public officials, community developers, and many others have been working in low-income neighborhoods for years, but they haven’t always worked together,” said Donald Schwarz, MD, MPH, MBA, RWJF Vice President, Program. “Invest Health aims to align their work and help neighborhoods thrive by intentionally incorporating health into community development.”
Mid-size American cities face some of the nation’s deepest challenges with entrenched poverty, poor health, and a lack of investment. But they also offer fertile ground for strategies that improve health and have the potential to boost local economies. Invest Health cities will fundamentally change the way communities improve opportunities to live healthy lives by addressing the drivers of health including jobs, housing, education, community safety, and environmental conditions. In addition to the $60,000 grant, Invest Health teams will take part in a vibrant learning community, have access to highly skilled faculty advisors and coaches, and engage a broader group of local stakeholders to encourage knowledge sharing.
“With a long history in community development finance, we are excited to help create a pipeline to channel capital into low-income communities through public and private investments,” said Amanda High, Chief of Strategic Initiatives at Reinvestment Fund. “Our goal is to transform how cities approach tough challenges, share lessons learned, and spur creative collaboration.”
Invest Health teams will travel to Philadelphia for a kick-off meeting on June 7th and will meet regularly to share lessons learned throughout the 18-month project. Learning from the program will be synthesized and disseminated through the Invest Health project website.
Selected teams plan to explore a broad range of ideas from reducing isolation of residents and creating retail hubs to decreasing the number of abandoned properties and related crime as well as improving walkability. Specific examples include:
Tuscaloosa, Alabama (population 50,000–100,000): The Tuscaloosa team plans to focus on intergenerational safety and health projects targeting the elderly, young adults, and children. The team comprising the City of Tuscaloosa, Whatley Health Services, Community Service Programs of West Alabama, Tuscaloosa Homebuilders Association, and Tuscaloosa Pediatrics will work on improving affordable, accessible housing; increasing technical education; and developing safe places to live and play.
Napa, California (population 50,000–100,000): The Housing Authority reports a Section 8 waiting list of 9,500—seven times the number of affordable housing units available. Given that safe and affordable housing is linked to better health, the City of Napa Housing Authority, Queen of the Valley Medical Center, the Public Health Division, Satellite Affordable Housing Associates, and the Corporation for Supportive Housing plan to work with community stakeholders to develop innovative low-income and supportive housing solutions.
St. Paul, Minnesota (population 250,000–300,000): In St. Paul, suburbanization has left many city residents without resources necessary for healthy daily life such as jobs and access to health care. St. Paul’s Invest Health team, with representatives from the City, HealthEast, Dayton's Bluff Community Council, Latino Economic Development Center, and the Hmong American Farmers Association will focus on long-term community-based interventions that revitalize neighborhoods and restore opportunities for healthy living.
A list of awardees is below and more information is available at www.investhealth.org.
Little Rock, Ark.
La Habra, Calif.
New Britain, Conn.
Des Moines, Iowa
Iowa City, Iowa
Kansas City, Kan.
Grand Rapids, Mich.
St. Paul, Minn.
St. Louis, Mo.
Grand Forks, N.D.
North Charleston, S.C.
Eau Claire, Wis.
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Reinvestment Fund is a catalyst for change in low-income communities. We integrate data, policy and strategic investments to improve the quality of life in low-income neighborhoods. Using analytical and financial tools, we bring high-quality grocery stores, affordable housing, schools and health centers to the communities that need better access—creating anchors that attract investment over the long term and help families lead healthier, more productive lives. Learn more at reinvestment.com.