Health Impact Project Provides Funding to Promote Health in Southern and Appalachian States

7 planning grants awarded to examine how factors like housing and education affect well-being

Health Impact Project Provides Funding to Promote Health in Southern and Appalachian States
Grantees will develop an evidence-based plan for addressing factors that lead to disparities in health outcomes© Getty Images

Grantees will develop an evidence-based plan for addressing factors that lead to disparities in health outcomes.

WASHINGTON—The Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, announced grants today to fund projects in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Each grantee will develop an evidence-based action plan for addressing social, economic, and environmental factors (such as housing, education, and community development) that lead to disparities in health outcomes—known as health inequities.

In addition to the funding, the awardees will receive technical assistance and training in tools such as health impact assessments (HIAs), which bring together scientific data, health expertise, and public input to identify the potential and often overlooked effects on public health of proposed laws, regulations, projects, policies, and programs.

 “The Health Impact Project focused on Southern and Appalachian states for these seven grants because research shows that while health inequities exist in these regions, the tools to help address them—such as health impact assessments—are rarely used,” said Rebecca Morley, director of the Health Impact Project. “We are pleased to collaborate with our partners and award grants that will help organizations that have a history of successfully addressing issues such as poverty, transportation, criminal justice, education, and housing to bring health evidence and community input into the policy process—leading to better health in the future.”

 “There are many factors that impact health, including where we live,” said Donald F. Schwarz, M.D., M.P.H., director at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “We are excited to support this effort to help address the health inequities faced by populations within the Southern and Appalachian states, and look forward to seeing the plans developed for addressing them.”

The grantees announced today include:

  • Arkansas Community Institute in Little Rock, Arkansas will develop a plan to assess the health effects of unstable, substandard, and unaffordable housing for people living south of Interstate 630, with the goal of improving housing opportunities, especially for formerly incarcerated individuals.
  • Collaborative Solutions Inc. in Birmingham, Alabama, will develop a plan to assess the relationships between stable housing and health equity with the goal of integrating consideration of health issues into three statewide housing plans being prepared by the Alabama Housing Finance Authority and the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.
  • The Micah Project in New Orleans, Louisiana will develop a plan to evaluate the potential health effects of “Ban the Box” legislation, which would prohibit employers from asking job seekers about their criminal records during the initial application phase.
  • Nashville Civic Design Center in Nashville, Tennessee will develop a plan to evaluate the health impacts of neighborhood design and development on transportation, walkability and pedestrian safety, food resources, housing, and open space and parks with the goal of integrating consideration of health issues into the community plans for Scott and Madison counties.
  • One Voice in Jackson, Mississippi, will work with Tougaloo College and the Claiborne County School District to develop a plan for a model school district that includes social, emotional, and behavioral support services with the goal of increasing graduation rates.
  • Williamson Health and Wellness Center in Williamson, West Virginia will seek to embed health considerations into a community-led tourism and economic development plan by evaluating the plan’s potential impact on employment, small business ownership, and physical activity. Changes to the plan might include strategies to facilitate new recreation businesses, such as kayaking tours, biking and running competitions, and associated amenities.
  • Young Adult Development in Action, also known as YouthBuild Louisville, in partnership with IDEAS xLab and The Special Project in Smoketown, Kentucky, will develop a plan for integrating health considerations into the “Smoketown Cultural Blueprint for Health.” The blueprint will create a plan for a healthier physical environment, with the goal of increasing family and social support and community safety.

In addition to the seven Health Impact Project grants, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) is awarding $45,000 to the:

  • Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham in Birmingham, Alabama to develop a plan to integrate health metrics into 23 community strategies, with the goal of improving access to transportation and reducing crime rates.

The Health Impact Project is collaborating with ARC, a federal-state partnership that works for sustainable community and economic development in Appalachia, as part of its overall investment in the region. ARC works in five of the seven states receiving Health Impact Project grants.

These projects are funded through October 2016. At the end of the grant period, grantees are expected to be prepared to implement plans that address the issues they have identified.


About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
For more than 40 years, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. RWJF strives 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 Follow the foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at

The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems. Pew applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public, and invigorate civic life. For more information, visit

About the Appalachian Regional Commission

The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian Region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia to help the Region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation.

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