Community Development and Health

Organizations promoting jobs, housing, and better conditions in low-income neighborhoods also focus on health.

It has long been understood that many factors beyond health care actually influence health. Social and economic determinants of health include income, education, physical environment, social isolation, and concentration of poverty. Given this reality, there is a growing realization of the potential for synergies between work to revitalize low-income communities and the need to promote and improve health.

Community development encompasses a range of efforts to improve the physical, economic, and social environment by promoting affordable housing, small-business development, job creation, and social cohesion in low-income neighborhoods. The field of community development is diverse. It includes real estate developers, financial institutions and other investors, community organizations, and local governments. These players have unique assets, as well as a network of connections that can be used to address the root causes or “upstream factors” that affect health.

This Health Policy Brief describes the potential for the community development sector to work more closely with the public health and related health-focused sectors and the challenges it may face, and was published online on November 10, 2011 in Health Affairs.