A Simplified Framework for Incorporating Health Into Community Development Initiatives

Community development seeks to address the consequences of poverty through initiatives that improve housing, economic opportunity, service availability, and community capacity.

There is growing recognition that the fields of community development and public health have much in common with regard to target populations, objectives, and challenges. Individual and neighborhood-level poverty are well-documented risk factors for illness and premature death. But relatively few developers systematically analyze how their projects could affect the health of the target community.

Tools and metrics that facilitate incorporating health into planning, financing, and implementing new community development projects and programs will foster more widespread and productive collaboration between these two fields. These researchers propose a simple framework to facilitate the identification and measurement of potential health effects, actions to optimize anticipated positive impacts, and strategies to mitigate potential negative impacts. The framework is drawn from an analysis of health impact assessments and includes four elements: identifying the health status of the population served, considering neighborhood-level influences on health, building design features important to health, and incorporating community engagement and capacity-building activities into the initiative.