Health

In our first Health and Community Development supplement, which ran in the Spring 2018 edition of Shelterforce magazine, we focus on community development board members who are from the health field, and census traits and health.The health of individuals and the health of communities are linked in so many ways, from zoning to access to fresh food, safe housing, safe streets and parks, and proper medical care. How is this growing realization affecting practice for both community development organizations and health care organizations? What does it take for these two separate worlds to partner toward shared goals? Thanks to the Kresge and Robert Wood Johnson foundations, and Kaiser Permanente for supporting our health and communities coverage, and to our Health and Community Development Editorial Advisory Board for their guidance, knowledge, and insights. Click here to view and download a PDF of our health supplements.

Developing Economic, Along with Physical, Health

Sue Joss and Jason Barbosa might seem to be unlikely economic development partners. She is the veteran CEO of a major nonprofit health care...
A woman in a pink, "I love San Francisco" sweater walks ahead of two women in light beige sweaters and a little girl who is wearing a pink coat and drinking a bottle of water. They are walking down a street and passing a black car that is parked on the left.

Community Building Despite Trauma

The trauma caused by poverty and the systems that reinforce it can short-circuit standard efforts to build community. A new method called “trauma-informed community building” aims to change that.

How the Community Reinvestment Act Can Help Flint

The audacious and callous decisions leading to the tragedy in Flint, Michigan are cruel and beyond comprehension. What is needed is an all-out effort...

Can San Francisco Get Mixed-Income Public Housing Redevelopment Right?

The HOPE SF program is aiming to explicitly avoid many of the problems mixed-income public housing redevelopments have faced, to create a truly inclusive process.

Are Planners Responsible for Public Health?

Could planners have an effect on waistlines around the Beltway? Maryland’s Prince George’s County and Virginia’s Fairfax County are examining how land use and...

From Food Pantries to Food Justice

Is it possible for a family to be truly self-sufficient and provide all of its own food?This is a...

Health and Community Development Resources

If you want to explore the intersection of health and community development further, here are some places to start.

Author Roundtable

Shelterforce authors discuss the roles of place, mobility, and displacement on health and neighborhoods.

How *to* Connect Health and Community Development

A recent Rooflines post explored how not to connect community development and health, urging practitioners to not fall into the trap of “moralizing public...

Health Care Confronts Challenge to Shift from “Volume to Value”

Health care, as we all know, is a big business. U.S. hospitals alone have $782 billion in total annual expenditures, which is roughly five...

Don’t Dump on Us

If it were not acceptable for anyone to suffer from substandard housing or the problems of disinvested neighborhoods, then many of the public health issues facing us would be automatically reduced.

When Supportive Housing Isn’t

The rationale behind supportive housing for people with mental disabilities is that pairing individualized services with permanent housing will help them live independently. But one San Francisco advocate sees more neglect than support.

Hearts on Fire (Fighting Organizer Burnout)

I have always thought of my movement work as a demanding, aggravating and irresistible lover - one it's impossible to marry, or to leave....

In Schools, Eliminating Poverty Stigma Could End Child Hunger

More Americans live in high-poverty neighborhoods than ever before, according to a recent Century Foundation report, and many of...

Health and the Spaces Inbetween

Last year, we published a focus issue on health and community development. We called the package “Are Our Neighborhoods...

The Next Step in Supportive Housing

With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, individual-focused healthy lifestyles—regardless of socioeconomic status—became an increased topic of discussion. Along with clear correlations between...

A Farm-to-Fork Movement, Starting with the Corner Store

One of the more intriguing aspects of the local food movement in the United States is the effort to...
Dr. Kelly Kelleher and the Rev. John Edgar walk down a street in Columbus, Ohio.

How a Risk-Averse Hospital and a Risk-Taking CDC Built a Functional Partnership

Shelterforce recently spoke with Angela Mingo of Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Rev. John Edgar of Community Development for All People to learn more about their health/housing partnership and how it came to be.
california construction site

California’s Endless Housing “Crisis”

In many ways, the recognition of the current “crisis” stems from middle- and upper-income Californians finally being impacted, and using their power to push for solutions that would address their situation. But their solutions ignore another population.

Prescription for a New Neighborhood

Housing mobility can complement community revitalization for children with serious health challenges. 

Housing Advocates Track Indoor Environmental Hazards to Spur Improvements

When the community health promoters of San Diego’s Environmental Health Coalition (EHC) say they’re doing pollution testing, many people probably imagine samples from the...
Two people partake in the Healing Hands project.

Using Art to Create Community at a Clinic

Arts projects at a Minneapolis clinic created a natural connection between people who might not otherwise interact.
A once-vacant lot in Philadelphia that has been cleaned.

Greening Vacant Lots: Low Cost, Big Effect in Philly

A Philadelphia program is cleaning up abandoned lots, helping formerly incarcerated residents get jobs, and improving the overall health and well-being of neighborhoods.

Under One Roof: Health Care and Social Services in the Same Place

Without steady employment, Olivia and her son found themselves without housing, without food, without healthcare, and without options. It...
Q: Can Support Community Development Improve Outcomes for the Health Sector? Yes! Over 50 percent of premature deaths in the U.S. can be attributed to preventable non-medical factors, specifically behavioral, environmental, and social conditions. Graphic of a home and all the areas that community development helps with health outcomes. Image links to PDF version of The Answer.

Q: Can Supporting Community Development Improve Outcomes for the Health Sector?

Yes! Over 50 percent of premature deaths in the U.S. can be attributed to preventable non-medical factors, specifically behavioral, environmental, and social conditions.

Rx for Tenants

Doctors and lawyers team up to help tenants stuck in housing that's bad for their health

Bridging Divides with Peer-to-Peer Strategies in Public Housing

Peer-to-peer strategies in public housing can keep residents engaged in programs offered within their respective communities by addressing cultural divides, trust issues, and employment barriers.
grand rapids skyline

Smaller Cities Are Laboratories for Change

In smaller cities it is typically much easier to engage high levels of leadership, get traction for strategies that are more visible, engage the wider community, build trust, and scale solutions more quickly than in larger areas. Here are a few examples.

Unsorting Our Cities

To improve the health of residents of disadvantaged neighborhoods, we have to address inequality, not medical care.

Why Do We Care About Health Equity?

The fight for health equity—for everyone to have a roughly equal shot at the potential and choice that good health offers—is of course, similar to the fight for economic justice and the work of community development.
Avalon Trace was renamed Cottage Gardens after the 176-unit complex was sold to a new owner in 2018.

Condemning Asthma, Not Homes in North Carolina

An apartment complex in North Carolina generated 120 times as many hospital visits as would have been expected for its population, until a creative coalition forced its sale and worked with the new owner to change things.

What Responsibilities Do Institutions Have In Their Communities?

Universities need to take an active interest in maintaining and enhancing community stability.

Urban Institute Report Highlights Health and Housing Links

There have been many studies, reports, and articles throughout the years that highlight the correlation between a person's housing...
sidewalk

Where Were All the Sidewalks Built?

A health and community development partnership leads to a revelation for a city transportation department.

Healthy Foods, Strong Communities

Fresh fruits and veggies are good for more than just your health.
Chris Wilder, Valley Medical Center Foundation CEO, holds a sign that reads "Yes on A: Affordable Housing. Everyone should have the opportunity to live in a safe, healthy, affordable home." The initiative tied health and housing funding for county residents.

Housing Is Health: Ballot Initiatives in California Approved

A conversation with three county supervisors who were instrumental in moving affordable housing ballot measures forward in the California Bay Area by bringing in the health factor.
A hemodialysis machine in a bedroom.

A Bad Mix: Utility Shut-Offs and Chronic Illnesses

In most states, a household can avoid or delay termination of its utility service due to overdue balances if the shut-off would significantly impact their health. But the process isn’t as simple as it may seem

Getting the Lead Out: Controlling Lead Paint Hazards in Housing

Lead poisoning remains the foremost environmental health risk to American children, with just under one million children with elevated lead levels. While the average...
An African-American man gets his blood pressure checked at the California Hotel, an EBALDC development that offers affordable apartments with community and commercial spaces.

Approaching Partnerships Between Health Care Institutions and Community Development Organizations

There isn’t an exact science to forming partnerships. The slow and sometimes messy process requires patience, allies, and trust.

Transforming Vacant Land Into Community Assets

Vacant land activities can be low cost and high impact; the price of failure is not steep, but the return on investment can be high.
community garden

Community Development and New Understandings of Health and Wellness

In June 2012, I attended the Institute for the Future’s Health Horizons conference Innovating Information Ecosystems: The Next Decade and Beyond as an expert...

Seven Tips to Help You Forge Health and Housing Partnerships

About 80 percent of a person’s health status can be attributed to non-medical factors such as housing and income.
tents and tarps on a lot

Shelter Shorts—The Week in Community Development, April 6

Gentrification Is Bad For One's Health | Housing Teachers-At School | Protecting Space for Local Business | TOD Doesn't Have to Displace | Community Artists Win in Court | More . . .

Better Living by Urban Restoration

It is the larger social and cultural environment of a home that creates health, not the housing unit considered on its own, concluded a...

Cooking With Health, and Heritage, in Mind

A recent article in The New York Times discussed an initiative to bring fresh, healthy food to a low-income Bronx neighborhood in New York’s...
Four hands holding money up in the air.

Which Agencies Should Pay to End Family Homelessness?

When families have stable housing, the benefits are widespread. And perhaps that has been the problem.
Children play on an Irish Traveller site on Dale Farm in 2011. A young boy with glasses rubs his eyes outside in Dale Farm, which was once the site of the largest Irish Traveller concentration until families were evicted in 2011. A health impact assessment helped house this indigenous group.

How a Health Impact Assessment Helped House Irish Travellers

An HIA that focused on Irish Traveller housing programs proves successful because it empowered the population.

Advocates for Healthy Housing

As public health and housing activists recognized a century ago when they fought for stronger sanitation and health codes, poorly maintained housing causes serious...

Financial Metrics Won’t Tell the Full Picture

Cost savings alone do not measure the full value of the collaboration between the health care and housing sectors.
The third installment of Shelterforce's Health and Community Development supplement.

Fall 2018 — Health and Community Development Supplement

In our third supplement, we focus on a coalition's work to lower the number of asthma-related hospital visits from an apartment complex, and how sitting on a porch can be good for your health. Click on the photo to download a copy.
The Whittier Street Health Center.

Healthy Futures Fund to Connect Health and Housing Practitioners

Building affordable housing with integrated health services. Health centers in low-income neighborhoods.These are goals of a $100M investment fund.

The Specter of Asbestos in Low-Income Housing

The cost of lead and asbestos abatement totals in the thousands of dollars, and private homes aren’t usually included in asbestos regulation, so its removal becomes less of a priority for landlords, and is much less likely to happen at all.
an IV drip

A Marketplace for Health and Housing to Exchange Money—Has the Time Come?

Why would there be a need for a marketplace that values health? The answer is simple: our current “investments” in health are not working.
Several workers stand on a partially finished home with white insulation around the foundation.

Green Is Affordable

The affordable housing movement has not only accepted green building, but is making it integral to its work.

Common Sense Is Community Development’s Most Powerful Ally

The title of this post proved itself to be true for us in Duluth, when local organizations got together to address the growing need...
An exterior view of a rowhouse in Philadelphia, Pennslyvania that appears to have some water damage.

Rowhouse Repairs for Health in Philadelphia

In Philadelphia, health care professionals and housing advocates are working together to deliver home repairs to low-income homeowners.
Alicia Spradlin and her daughter Faith live in apartments that have been set-aside for UnitedHealthcare Community Plan members.

Setting Aside Housing for Frequent Health Care Users

Housing specifically for those who frequently use health care services makes sense on many levels, but it also raises questions about privacy and lining up who pays and who benefits.

Our Financial Reform, Our Health

The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future, by Joseph Stiglitz, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., June 2012. 448 pp. $27.95 (Hardcover). Available on Amazon.

How *Not* to Connect Health and Community Development

A few months ago as I walked to a board meeting of my local CDFI, I passed a memorial to a young man who...
Dr. Jim O’Connell sits on a patient's bed at Pine Street Inn Supportive Housing in Boston.

Not Just Partners, But Neighbors: Health Care in Affordable Housing Developments

Offering on-site health care in housing developments makes sense. But developing and managing housing and health care facilities can be very different. How do you make them work together?
Image name: Lucy Corr Caption: Oral health practitioners at the Lucy Corr Dental Clinic in Virginia specialize in serving older adults. Credit: Photo courtesy of the Lucy Corr Dental Clinic

Seniors Cannot Age in Place Without Access to Oral Health Services

Maintaining good health—including good oral health—as long as possible is a critical component of aging in place.

The Affordable Care Act: Implications for Community Development

Even if you have not tuned out of the long-running debate about the future of health care in the United States, you can be...

Doctors Join the Fight Against Speculators

Housing crises are health crises. Toxic mold causes asthma. Lack of heat weakens immune systems. Unaffordability causes stress. Forced choices between paying the rent and paying for medical care or food lead to poor health. Around the country, health care institutions that recognize this have started to employ lawyers onsite to help patients fight landlords for better housing conditions or qualify for housing subsidies (plus a range of other legal supports that will generally have direct effect on their health).
Barcelona apartment buildings

Shelter Shorts—The Week in Community Development, April 20

NIMBYs, YIMBYs, PHIMBYs-Oh My! | Can Algorithms Make Equitable Cities? | Retail Segregation Takes a Toll | E.R. Visits and "Tough" Neighborhoods | Enough Innovation Already | More...

Better Together

The community development and health sectors can and should work together to reduce health disparities and improve everyone’s health.

Filling Commercial Vacancies with Food Pantries

When I tell people that food pantries can be a new and innovative way to help lift up communities, they look at me as...

Why Food-Oriented Development Is Easier to Implement

You’ve heard of transit-oriented development. But food-oriented development might be easier to generate. 
peeling paint windowsill

Is a Home with Lead Hazards Really “Affordable”?

The cost of housing is not simply the mortgage, rent, and utilities, but the individual and community health, education, and social costs associated with low-quality, unstable, and unhealthy housing.
A smiling African-American man in a baseball cap sits at a table in a social lounge type room with other people in the background.

Keeping Seniors Healthy by Fostering Connections and Community

For high needs seniors with chronic illnesses, health is not merely—or even mostly—a matter for medical professionals.
The view of downtown Richmond, Virginia, as seen from Jefferson Park.

Interview with Mark D. Constantine, president and CEO of Richmond Memorial Health Foundation

Mark Constantine gives us a view of one foundation’s attempt to learn to walk the walk and how that commitment can influence the work one organization does to create a culture of health in its community.
Kids dance at a neighborhood street festival

What Happens When a CDC Pivots to a Health-First Focus?

Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation in Cleveland finds that being an early adopter of a community health focus has its advantages.
Close-up image of links in a chain.

Look Outside the Box with Health and Housing Partnerships

Though it seems the connection between health and community development is on everyone’s lips these days, the two sectors are really still at the beginning stages of learning how to work together.
migrant farm workers

Shelter Shorts—The Week in Community Development, April 27

Climate Gentrification | A Marijuana Tax for Housing? | Homeownership Alone Can't Close the Wealth Gap | Illegal ICE Raids on Farms | Keeping An Eye on Opportunity Zones | More...

Foreclosing on Our Health?

In a dangerous cycle, medical bills are a common cause of foreclosure—and the stress and financial crisis of foreclosure causes an increase in serious health problems.
Members of Boston Liberation Health hold a banner that reads, "Capitalism, racism, and heteropatriachy are making us sick. Join Liberation Health."

How Organizing for Justice Helps Your Mental Health

How do social justice, organizing, and mental health interact? Shelterforce chats with clinical social worker Dawn Belkin Martinez to find out.
physician takes blood pressure

Shelter Shorts, The Week in Community Development—Sept. 21

News from—and affecting—the community development world.

Leaving Grandma Out in the Cold

The demise of the federal program that funded senior housing construction bodes ill for the increasing numbers of low-income seniors who struggle to afford a decent place to live.

Tools of the Trade: Measuring the Health-Related Returns of Community Development

Partnerships are becoming more the norm and less the exception, but how do we know that they are actually having a good effect on health, well-being, and economic opportunity?

Prescription for a Legal Advocate

When we wrote in 2006 about Boston Medical Center's program to link patients to lawyers who could help improve their...

Financial Incentives Encourage New Partnerships in Housing and Health

If you watch Downton Abbey, as I do, you know that Lord Grantham is becoming an affordable housing developer—much to his consternation. He’s been called on to help build a slate of new homes on a piece of his property in the wake of The Great War. But it was his answer to a question […]
A lightbulb is on in a dark room. The utility company has kept the lights on.

When Domestic Violence and Utility Bill Debt Intersect

In Pennsylvania, domestic violence survivors are often not afforded the protections they are entitled to because many people are often unaware of the Responsible Utility Customer Protection Act and its provisions. A three-year pilot program aimed to change that.

Breathing Easier

A Massachusetts-based program provides home environment assessments, education, and home remediation services—often resulting in the improved health and lives of families.

Flint: Tainted Choices, Tainted Water

Like the water itself, the situation in Flint, Mich., should be crystal clear: elected and appointed officials, at the state and federal levels, have done...
Child showing a story book to another child.

How This Museum Supports Community Integration and Trauma Recovery

Using artistic expression to de-stigmatize and treat trauma.
porch party

Sitting on a Porch Can Be Good for Your Health

To help combat isolation and reweave the connecting fabric that had been lost, a neighborhood arts center launches an initiative that eventually became a movement.

Renovating Senior Complexes to Be Green, Healthy, and Connected

Orness Plaza is one of the only public housing developments geared toward seniors and the disabled in Mankato, Minn., the state’s fourth largest city....
A female doctor t the Daughters of Charity Health Center in New Orleans wears a white lab coat with a stethoscope and stands next to an African American woman, who is wearing a black shirt.

A Look at a Medical, Legal Aid Partnership in New Orleans

A health center has partnered with a legal services agency to better help patients by addressing the social determinants of health. This “medical-legal partnership” is part of a growing trend that’s taking place across the nation.
A senior housing building at Mercy Housing Southeast’s Mercy Park development.

Why Health and Housing Partnerships Are Hard

Housing managers and health providers are natural partners for health care programming, but misunderstandings and institutional mismatches can get in the way.
Pogue’s Run Grocer Mural, an initiative of the Indy Food Co-op.

Done Right, Eliminating Food Deserts Result in Community Oases

While eliminating food deserts often involves resources from outside of the community, a neighborhood must maintain control of its assets and identity.

Making the Connections Between Housing and Health

In December, President Barack Obama signed into law the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act that offers health, and dignity to millions of people through access to life-saving water and sanitation. The focus of this legislation will not cost taxpayers a penny more; it simply makes U.S. investment in existing programs smarter, more […]
Several residents, as well as some children, enjoy outside exercise equipment.

Getting Health on Board

It’s becoming increasingly common for community development corporations and grassroots housing organizations to have board members from the health care sector. Here's why.

Taking Health Into Account

By systematically assessing the health risks of development decisions upfront, health impact assessments can prevent costly and harmful mistakes.
Nine African-American women stand in a park with their fists raised.

Walking Warriors

When it comes to neighborhood-based health activity interventions, how they are carried out is often as important as what is offered.
Residents of four historically African-American neighborhoods hold up a sign that reads "This Land is Our Land! #TentCityATL"

The Right to Stay Put

There is much work to be done around housing and equitable development, but the solution is not simply to move people around. A key challenge is creating real choice.

Staying Ahead of the Age Wave

Groups working with older adults, including many community developers, are crafting a range of creative interventions, from home modifications to service-enriched housing models, to allow seniors to age in place. Will it be enough?
A member of a New Jersey based advocacy group crosses her hands over her chest and her fellow group members line up behind her with their arms extended. This is a trust fall.

Creating a Sanctuary For Youth in Camden, New Jersey

At Hopeworks ‘N Camden, youth have often experienced a lifetime of traumatic events and toxic stress. Learning from the health world’s understanding of trauma can create better outcomes for service organizations—and better workplaces too.

Organizing for Hospital Community Benefits

Community development corporations need to become more educated about hospital community benefits. This is what can be done to get the process started.

The Tenacity of Dysfunction

The word resilience has different meanings in different fields. In the field of material science, it refers to the ability of a material to...

Forget Red and Blue States: Go Green for Better Jobs, Health, and Environment

The following op-ed is an expanded version of “Green States Better for Jobs,” that appeared in the Louisville Courier Journal on October 20, 2014. How do you win an election in any red Southern state? If you are running as a senator the conventional wisdom is you condemn government as an enemy of working families […]
An African-American man and woman stand happily outside on their front porch. The woman is wearing a red coat and a black and white hate, while the man is reader a read Oakland A's hat and a black jacket.

Getting Ahead of Gentrification in the South Side of Columbus

More than a decade after several groups came together to improve substandard housing in the South Side of Columbus, signs of gentrification and forced displacement are beginning to emerge. Can something be done so current residents can afford to stay in their neighborhoods for years to come? The short answer is yes.