Connecting Community Development and Public Health Using HIAs


Through a grant from the Health Impact Project, three organizations are undertaking health impact assessments, or HIAs, to incorporate health in community development-related decisions. While community development and public health professionals often work side by side in communities to improve quality of life and health, they often do so in parallel rather than in partnership. In the past several years, as more research has shown how housing, transportation, education, and income affect health, leaders in both fields have come to recognize the opportunity to work together to build resiliency in low-income communities.

To foster such collaborations, the Federal Reserve Bank’s Community Development program and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation brought together community developers and public health professionals in regions around the country for a series of Healthy Communities meetings. These conversations have highlighted the tremendous potential for partnerships between the fields and explored the need to develop practical tools that can move collaboration from concept to action. To this end, the Health Impact Project is funding three pilot community development-related HIAs:

  • Community Solutions, a nonprofit dedicated to ending homelessness by strengthening communities, is working with design collaborative Michael Singer Studio to conduct an HIA. This assessment seeks to inform a neighborhood revitalization and sustainability plan for Northeast, a neighborhood in Hartford, CT. .
  • The Georgia Health Policy Center at Georgia State University is conducting an HIA to inform the 2015 Georgia Qualified Allocation Plan for Low-Income Housing Tax Credits. It will look at health by assessing the proposed criteria for allocating the tax credits and how they will affect housing for vulnerable populations and community development decisions.
  • Health Resources in Action, in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, will conduct an HIA to inform proposed regulations on the release of funding for community development corporations under the Community Investment Tax Credit Grant Program.

An evaluation running parallel to that of the Fed, led by the Georgia Health Policy Center, will determine what aspects of the HIA process and findings were useful, what was redundant or peripheral to the developers’ needs, and how the process could be streamlined to make it easier and more efficient for community developers to integrate health considerations into their work. At the end of the project, the HIA teams will synthesize the findings from the evaluation of these pilots into a healthy community development tool kit to streamline the inclusion of health in future community development planning. 

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