The integration of community development and health is an exciting, emerging action strategy in communities. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build a Healthier America’s 2014 report Time to Act: Investing in the Health of Our Children and Communities explores how we can improve health for all Americans by investing in early childhood, integrating community development and health, and linking health and healthcare. The commission specifically recommends fundamentally changing how we revitalize neighborhoods, fully integrating health into community development.
As the focus on health increases within the community development field, the following tools may be helpful to community development professionals working in local communities:
- Build Healthy Places Network (from the Public Health Institute) is an online network of resources, measurement tools, and success stories to support and deepen collaboration across the sectors of community development, finance, population health, and public health.
- What Counts (from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the Urban Institute) outlines opportunities and challenges for the strategic use of data to reduce poverty, improve health, expand access to quality education, and build stronger communities.
- LISC Institute for Comprehensive Community Development (from LISC) spotlights blogs, resources, and stories about how community development and health are working together.
- Working Together for Better Health (NeighborWorks America) highlights training and resources available to support leaders linking health and community development.
- Community Development Financial Institutes (CDFI) (from the U.S. Department of the Treasury) are specialized financial institutions that work in low-income neighborhoods where traditional financial institutions are less likely to make investments. They provide a unique range of financial products and services in economically distressed target markets, such as mortgage financing for low-income and first-time homebuyers and not-for-profit developers, flexible underwriting and risk capital for needed community facilities, and technical assistance, commercial loans and investments to small start-up or expanding businesses in low-income areas.
- Health in All Policies (from the Public Health Institute) provides guidance to using collaborative approaches to improve population health by embedding health considerations into decision-making processes across a broad array of sectors.
- The Healthy Homes Initiative (from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) is an initiative to address health hazards, such as mold, dust, lead, radon and other allergens or toxins in housing.
- The Healthy Home Rating System (from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) is a qualitative rating tool that measures health and safety hazards in homes and neighborhoods that pose a risk to residents. The results of the rating system can be used as a call to action to improve hazards.
- The Healthy Food Access Portal (from Policy Link) is a resource to identify strategies and funding to increase access to healthy foods in your community, including linkages to funding strategies such as the Healthy Food Financing Initiative.
- The National Center for Safe Routes to School provides resources to make biking and walking to school safer. To assess your community’s status, use the Bikability Checklist or the Walkability Checklist, both products of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
As a community development professional, you play an important role in efforts to advance change to improve health. As you work to advocate for change in your community, public health and healthcare leaders can be important allies, bringing additional data, expertise, and credibility to your efforts.
For more information about moving changes forward, visit the Act on What’s Important guide in the Roadmaps to Health Action Center. You’ll find that this guide has a heavier focus on policy advocacy because, while programs are a critical piece of the puzzle, we know policy work is essential to create sustainable change at a population level and that communities need more support on advocacy and policy change.