How Do Community Development Organizations Contribute to Healthy Places?

How Do Community Development Organizations Contribute to Healthy Places?
Alina Schnake-Mahl, Sarah Norman
Cities & Health
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Where we live affects every aspect of our lives, from our economic opportunities to our health outcomes. Studies have found that social and economic characteristics at the neighborhood level are independently associated with health outcomes and that low-income residents and people of color are more likely to live in neighborhoods with greater stressors than whites with higher incomes. For more than half a century, community development organizations have advanced social and economic opportunities in low-income areas. Recent developments, including a large aging population, major changes to the health care system, increased involvement of philanthropies, and greater recognition of the social determinants of health, have increased the potential for collaboration between the health care and community development sectors. Knowledge of current health-related strategies among community development organizations is limited, which is why in their new study, Alina Schnake and Sarah Norman explored such approaches, partnerships, and services. They analyzed data from a NeighborWorks America survey of 242 high-performing community development organizations throughout the United States and provide three case studies. Their findings point to the importance of further alliances between the two fields.

Key findings

  • Among the 242 organizations, 205 (83.3 percent) engaged partners to support their work.
  • The survey results show significant efforts by community development organizations to target health but highlight opportunities for increased engagement.
  • The authors emphasize the need to address gaps between formal medical care and community health needs through more locally based services and partnerships.
  • The authors urge stakeholders to partner with housing and community development organizations already working in communities across the country.