St. Louis, MO —The City of St. Louis has been selected by Reinvestment Fund and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to take part in the new Invest Health initiative. Invest Health is aimed at transforming how leaders from mid-size American cities work together to help low-income communities thrive, with specific attention to community features that drive health such as access to safe and affordable housing, places to play and exercise, and quality jobs.
The City of St. Louis was selected from more than 180 teams from 170 communities that applied to the initiative. Cities with populations between 50,000 and 400,000 were asked to form five-member teams including representatives from the public sector, community development, and an anchor institution, preferably academic or health-related. The City of St. Louis team comprises representatives from BJC Healthcare, Missouri Foundation for Health, City of St. Louis Community Development Administration, the For the Sake of All initiative in the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, and the Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis and plans to address disparities in chronic disease incidence and mortality by altering aspects of the built environment that influence obesity in socially disadvantaged neighborhoods.
"Invest Health provides our City with the opportunity to bring together public, private, and nonprofit partnerships across the health and community development sectors to address health disparities in neighborhoods," says Alana Green, Acting Director of the City of St. Louis' Community Development Administration.
Mid-size American cities face some of the nation's deepest challenges with entrenched poverty, poor health and a lack of investment. But they also offer fertile ground for strategies that improve health and have the potential to boost local economies. The program has the potential to fundamentally transform the way St. Louis City improves opportunities to live healthy lives by addressing the drivers of health including jobs, housing, education, community safety and environmental conditions.
"With a long history in community development finance, we are excited to help create a pipeline to channel capital into low-income communities through public and private investments," said Amanda High, Chief of Strategic Initiatives at Reinvestment Fund. "Our goal is to transform how cities approach tough challenges, share lessons learned and spur creative collaboration.
Over the next 18 months, Invest Health teams will take part in a vibrant learning community, have access to highly skilled faculty advisors and coaches who will guide their efforts toward improved health, and receive a $60,000 grant. St. Louis City will also engage a broader group of local stakeholders to encourage local knowledge sharing.Learning from the program will be synthesized and disseminated through the project website.
"Public officials, community developers, and many others have been working in low-income neighborhoods for years, but they haven't always worked together," said Donald Schwarz, MD, MPH, MBA, RWJF Vice President, Program. "Invest Health aims to align their work and help neighborhoods thrive by intentionally incorporating health into community development."
The City of St. Louis' projects will explore a broad range of ideas that address diet, physical activity, and stress in high health disparity neighborhoods. Examples could range from economic development that addresses food access and job opportunities to neighborhood based health programming. Project teams will travel to Philadelphia for a kick-off meeting on June 7th and will meet regularly to share lessons learned throughout the 18-month project. A full list of awardees and more information is available at www.investhealth.org.
About Reinvestment Fund
Reinvestment Fund is a catalyst for change in low-income communities. We integrate data, policy and strategic investments to improve the quality of life in low-income neighborhoods. Using analytical and financial tools, we bring high-quality grocery stores, affordable housing, schools and health centers to the communities that need better access—creating anchors that attract investment over the long term and help families lead healthier, more productive lives. Learn more at reinvestment.com.
About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are striving to build a national Culture of Health that will enable all to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org. Follow the Foundation on Twitter at www.rwjf.org/twitter or on Facebook at www.rwjf.org/facebook.