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The Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, is partnering with five organizations for the next 18 months to incorporate health into decision-making.
The organizations work in a variety of sectors, including energy and education, that have far-reaching effects on health and well-being. Decisions in these sectors can have important implications for health equity, with potentially disproportionate impacts on certain population groups, such as low-income households, seniors, and people of color. However, health is often not systematically taken into account, and individuals or organizations that have an important stake in the outcome often face barriers to engaging in the decision-making process.
Health impact assessments (HIAs) can address this. HIAs examine health impacts of proposed policies, projects, plans, or programs—and engage the community when doing so. But HIAs focus on bringing the health impacts of one specific decision to light, and this initiative seeks to make lasting changes to the way organizations and sectors conduct business so that health is routinely considered. The goal is to demonstrate that changes in systems and policies—such as investment strategies, regulatory action, or new tools to advance best practices—can be adopted or replicated by other organizations or communities, and ultimately reduce health inequities.
In addition to providing grants, the Health Impact Project will collaborate with each organization to convene meetings, facilitate connections to experts or decision-makers, and advise on public health and equity methods.
The organizations include:
- American Planning Association (APA) is a membership organization of 38,000 local, regional, and state-level public and private planning agencies across the U.S. APA created the Comprehensive Plan Standards for Sustaining Places to provide guidance for incorporating principles of sustainable growth and development into local planning. APA plans to demonstrate the use of the health and equity standards at four sites, and develop resources and tools to facilitate implementation by its membership.
- Community Catalyst is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to giving all individuals and communities, especially vulnerable populations, influence over local, state, and national decisions that affect their health. It will facilitate the inclusion of school-based substance use disorders screening and early intervention in school improvement activities required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act and related state initiatives. Its long-term aim is to boost student performance, reduce absenteeism, and improve youth health in Georgia, Wisconsin, and New Jersey, and disseminate this policy and implementation strategy to states across the country.
- Forward Community Investments (FCI), a community development financial institution, is a lender, investor and advisor for Wisconsin-based organizations and initiatives that are actively working to promote healthy communities and advance racial and socioeconomic equity. FCI’s capital has been used to build affordable housing, expand community facilities, develop cooperatives, and create and retain jobs, touching the lives of over 679,000 low-income individuals. As part of this initiative, FCI will integrate health-focused criteria into loan screening, evaluation, reporting, and monitoring processes. For example, it will include criteria to systematically assess how stakeholders affected by a project have been involved in the planning for it.
- The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), a national nonprofit community development finance institution, plans to invest $10 billion in underserved urban and rural areas over the next decade to catalyze economic, health, safety and educational mobility. As a Community Development Finance Institution, LISC will change its investment practices and programming to incorporate health-based criteria. LISC will also develop metrics to monitor its progress toward improving health determinants and measure the long-term outcomes of its programs aimed at advancing health equity.
- Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC) is a nonprofit that works to enhance the economic, environmental, and societal benefits of clean and efficient energy use. VEIC will encourage public utility regulators in Vermont and Washington, D.C. to consider the health benefits of energy efficiency programs when they analyze the cost effectiveness of energy programs. It will spotlight the particular benefits for low- and moderate-income households, which are most at risk of adverse health outcomes.
For more information about selection criteria and the goals of these grants, read the 2017Call for Partners.
Bethany Rogerson is a manager, Abigail Baum is a senior associate, and Mimi Majumdar Narayan is a principal associate with the Health Impact Project