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Wellspring Initiative

 

Lead Organization: Partners for a Healthier Community, Inc. 

Key Partners: Baystate Health, Western New England University, the Pioneer Valley AFL-CIO,  The Center for Popular Economics, MassMutual, Providence Health System,  Massachusetts Higher Education Consortium, Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, Springfield Technical Community College, United Way of Pioneer Valley, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Center for Public Policy and Administration at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Michael Kane Consulting, Third Sector New England;  Western New England School of Law; Western Mass Enterprise Fund.

Project Location: Springfield, Mass. 

Contact: Frank Robinson, executive director, Partners for a Healthier Community, frank.robinson@baystatehealth.org 

Project Description

People who have jobs tend to be healthier—now and later in life—than people who are unemployed. Researchers believe that this relationship is tied at least in part to the fact that people who are employed have access to resources, such as health insurance and transportation, which can help them maintain better health. In Springfield, Mass., the poorest metropolitan area in the state, Partners for a Healthier Community is working with the Center for Public Policy and Administration at the University of Massachusetts, the Center for Popular Economics and several local organizations, businesses, and non-profits to create entry-level jobs in low-income neighborhoods to ultimately improve residents’ health. In addition to creating more employment opportunities, the Wellspring Initiative, as the coalition is known, also aims to improve living conditions in several blighted Springfield neighborhoods.

To create new jobs, Wellspring is helping the region's largest employers shift their purchases of goods and services from outside the region into inner-city Springfield, supporting a market for new, local, employee-owned cooperatives. This new demand will support the establishment of new cooperative businesses such as an upholstery service, and an urban hydroponic greenhouse. a commercial laundry facility, and construction and energy efficiency firms. Wellspring cooperatives is serving as a source of both jobs and job training for low-income residents and, hopefully, a way for these people to increase their current and potential wealth. In addition to job creation, Wellspring is also launching a culturally and educationally appropriate job training program to teach skills for  self-management and technical proficiency. The Wellspring Cooperative Network will provide an umbrella connecting the individual cooperative businesses in an effort to facilitate mutual support, share business services, training, and financial investment. 

Why this work is important:

  • Researchers believe that employed people are healthier than unemployed people, at least in part, because employed people have access to resources, like health insurance and transportation, which can help them maintain better health.

Relevant Information from the 2014 County Health Rankings

  • Hampden County ranked 14th out of 14 counties for health outcomes.
  • The county’s unemployment rate was nearly 9 percent compared to the state unemployment rate which was under 7 percent.
  • Just under a third (31%) of Hampden County children live in poverty—statewide 15 percent of children live in poverty.