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A new action-oriented guide is available to foster collaboration between the health sector and the organizations working to improve the conditions of poverty, known as the community development sector.
Collaboration among these sectors is critical because more than 80% of the nearly $3.5 trillion spent on medical care each year in the U.S. is spent on treating chronic diseases, most of which are preventable and related to the conditions of poverty.
Latinos and low-income populations are disproportionately burdened by the conditions of poverty, thus face higher rates of chronic disease.
Conditions of Poverty
Health is not created in a doctor’s office, it is created in healthy, equitable, and prosperous communities.
However, not all communities were created equal. Some have unstable housing, inferior schools, unsafe streets and parks, limited access to healthy food, poor access to transportation, limited employment opportunities, and numerous other barriers to access essential services needed to live a healthy and productive life.
These are the conditions of poverty and concentrated disadvantage, also known as hardship.
Enter, poor health.
Chronic diseases, like obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and depression, are rooted in the conditions of poverty.
Although community development is a multi-billion-dollar sector of the American economy dedicated to improving the neighborhoods, lives, and health of people living in poverty, this sector isn’t in synch with the health sector, thus both are missing opportunities to have a greater impact on reducing health disparities.
That’s why the Build Healthy Places Network created the Partnerships for Health Equity and Opportunity: A Healthcare Playbook for Community Developers.
The community development sector includes organizations from various fields working to improve the conditions of poverty. It includes organizations in real estate, city planning, law, social work, public policy, public health, affordable housing, and finance that invest in the development and financing of affordable housing, businesses, community centers, health clinics, job training programs, and services to support children, youth and families.
These organizations are moving the needle on third-grade literacy, high school graduation rates, college readiness, income inequality, income segregation, housing cost burden, recidivism, community schools, domestic violence, child abuse, access to parks and green space, underemployment, dual language learners, homelessness, sustainable development, access to healthcare, air quality, and more.
“The community development sector develops and finances the physical spaces, infrastructure, and essential services needed to live a healthy and productive life and can serve as an action arm for advancing population health and health equity,” the playbook states. “These investments could include affordable housing with on-site services, grocery stores in food deserts, community centers with workforce development programs, comprehensive childcare and educational facilities, small business support, and more.”
Comprehensive childcare and educational facilities, for example, are particularly important in breaking the cycle of health inequity because experiences in the first five years of life are among the most powerful forces that shape our health as adults. Yet, the availability of child care centers and quality early education is in a state of crisis for Latino families.
This playbook is designed for those involved in community development and will help them:
- Identify cross-sector partners,
- Determine hospital readiness for collaboration,
- Leverage assets for partnership, and
- Create a partnerships roadmap.
This playbook will also help public health departments, healthcare systems, philanthropic organizations, and city agencies better understand the assets community development organizations bring to partnerships and how they can be leveraged for sustained impacts on population health.
Share this playbook to deepen conversations about health equity, community development, and investment to improve the conditions of poverty in the highest-hardship areas in your community.