Alameda County Prosperity Project


Lead Organization: Alameda County Public Health Department

Key Partners: Alameda County Health Care Services Agency, Urban Strategies Council, Alameda County Community Asset Network and the Walter and Elise Haas Fund.

Project Location: Oakland, Calif.

Contact: Bina Shrimali, Health Equity Innovation Manager, Alameda County Public Health Department, 

Project Description

Financial well-being plays a critical role in building healthy communities. All Alameda County residents need access to appropriate financial services in order to meet their daily needs and pursue advancement opportunities like buying a home, starting a business, or getting an education. Too many Alameda County residents lack access to safe and healthy financial products and services and turn to predatory services, such as payday lenders, pawn shops, and check cashers to meet their banking and credit needs. Without appropriate financial tools to support their needs, families can’t weather emergencies, save for the future, or help the next generation.

The Alameda County Prosperity Project - a collaboration between the Alameda County Public Health Department, Urban Strategies Council, Alameda County Community Asset Network, and other local partners - is working to improve health and financial well-being in its community by increasing availability and access to safe and healthy financial services and products where predatory financial services are disproportionately located. The project’s mission is to ensure that all residents, regardless of race or place of residence, can build wealth and economic security necessary to lead a long and healthy life.  

The Alameda County Prosperity Project will improve community health by providing residents with the opportunity to protect their income and build financial assets through three elements: policy, education, and service delivery. The policy element recognizes that current asset development work is geared toward individual choices rather than banking policies or institutional practices and is focused on developing a policy to expand access to non-predatory financial services in underserved neighborhoods. The education component is focused on developing the Savvy Consumer Toolkit, an innovative financial education curriculum that develops critical thinking skills for residents to recognize and avoid predatory practices with the goal of increasing the use of low-cost local financial products. The service delivery component focuses on integrating the Savvy Consumer Toolkit into home-visits to families expecting a baby or families with young children. The service is conducted by ACPHD’s Family Health Services staff who are well positioned to provide financial tools and put growing families on healthier life trajectories.

Why this work is important:

  • Financial health plays a critical role in building healthy communities.
  • Without access to appropriate financial services, community members can not pursue advancement opportunities like buying a home, starting a business, or getting an education.
  • Increases in income and wealth are linked to a range of health outcomes, through improved access to health-promoting goods and services, increased sense of control, and reduced stress. In Alameda County, low-income and communities of color continue to fare worst on most key health indicators tracked over time by the public health department. In order to improve health for all, we must address unfavorable neighborhood and social conditions—including promoting greater economic security to improve the life chances and health of people in Alameda County’s disadvantaged neighborhoods. 
  • Engaging community members at multiple levels—individual, interpersonal, societal, policy—to address social and economic factors that impact health, builds on one’s self-efficacy and overall strengths of a community.
  • In Oakland alone, 1 in 6 households do not have access to a checking or savings account and use predatory financial services to meet their banking and credit needs.
  • Services like check cashers, payday lenders, and pawn shops take hard-earned income out of family household budgets and also diminish opportunities to build wealth in communities that are struggling economically. 
  • Payday loans alone leach more than $3.89 million out of Oakland over the course a single year –enough to send nearly 140 Oakland youth to University of California, Berkeley for one year.

Relevant Information from the 2014 County Health Rankings:

  • Alameda County ranked 20th out of 57 counties for social and economic factors.
  • Alameda County’s unemployment rate was 9 percent.
  • More than a quarter of adults in Alameda County do not have adequate social or emotional supports.
  • Alameda’s violent crime rate is nearly double that of the state average.