New Grants Will Make Health a Factor in Decisions on Education, Criminal Justice, Energy Production, and More

The Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, is delighted to announce the awarding of 14 new grants. Selected following a nationwide call for proposals, the grantees will conduct health impact assessments (HIAs) to determine the potential health impact of a broad range of proposed projects and policies and to offer practical recommendations to make well-informed policy decisions and promote good health in communities across the country. Three foundations—the de Beaumont Foundation, The California Endowment, and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation—contributed funding toward these HIAs.

Boston Public Health Commission will conduct an HIA to inform city council decisions on proposed changes to the Boston Living Wage Ordinance, including increased enforcement. City lawmakers passed the law in 1998 to ensure that employees of city contractors earn a wage that allows a family of four to live on or above the poverty line. The HIA will analyze how the living-wage policy can affect income, employment opportunities, poverty, and housing status, among other consideration, and in turn how these factors affect overall health, the risk for many illnesses, stress, and access to affordable health care. (Support for this project was provided, in part, by a grant from the de Beaumont Foundation)

The Illinois Public Health Institute, in collaboration with the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH), will conduct an HIA to inform plans for the implementation of a proposed greenway trail, urban agricultural zone, and other land-use elements along a two-mile corridor in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. The HIA will consider how the design and implementation of these neighborhood proposals will affect community safety, social cohesion, physical activity, food access, and economic development, which in turn are related to stress, obesity, and chronic diseases such as diabetes. Additionally, the grantee will support the CDPH in building departmental and city capacity for conducting the HIAs. The CDPH will also explore opportunities to integrate the HIAs into its staff positions and internal structure. (Support for this project was provided, in part, by a grant from the de Beaumont Foundation)

The Maricopa County Department of Public Health (MCDPH) will conduct an HIA to inform the Roosevelt School District Governing Board and superintendent as they consider authorizing community use of district-owned properties, including playgrounds, sports fields, and vacant lots. The HIA will analyze how access to school properties can increase opportunities for physical activity, which can reduce the risk of problems such as obesity and diabetes; and how it can encourage greater neighborhood social cohesion, in turn reducing the risk of crime and violence, depression, and stress. Additionally, the MCDPH will work to build consideration of health into county policy by integrating the HIA into core staff positions and internal departmental structures. (Support for this project was provided, in part, by a grant from the de Beaumont Foundation)

The Council on Crime and Justice will conduct an HIA to inform the Minnesota State Legislature’s decision on a proposal to expand current policies to allow criminal records for certain first-time offenders in juvenile delinquency, theft, and nonviolent drug cases to be sealed. Expanding the state’s policies regarding expunging youth-offender records could remove barriers to employment and housing for people with a criminal history. Income and stable housing are related to overall health status, rates of chronic illness, and stress and mental health. (This project is supported by funding from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation)

The Washington County Departments of Public Works and Public Health and Environment, in collaboration with the Gateway Corridor Commission, will conduct an HIA to inform planning of station areas in six communities that lie directly along the proposed Gateway Corridor project. The corridor is a planned bus-rapid transit project between urban and suburban communities in the Twin Cities metropolitan region and will act as a connector to corporate campuses, educational and commercial centers, and recreational destinations. The HIA will examine how the transitway will change access to affordable housing and jobs and to cultural, educational, and recreational facilities. Increased access to these neighborhood components is linked to reduced rates of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and poor mental health. The HIA will be done concurrently with a Draft Environmental Impact Statement being conducted by the Gateway Corridor Commission. (This project is supported by funding from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation)

Through a grant to the San Francisco Study Center, the Ditching Dirty Diesel Collaborative will conduct an HIA to inform development of the final freight component of the  Alameda County, California, Transportation Commission’s countywide transportation plan—the Alameda County Goods Movement Plan. The plan will outline a long-range strategy for moving goods efficiently, reliably, and sustainably within, to, from, and through the county by road, rail, air, and water. The HIA will address the risk of chronic illnesses, such as asthma and cardiovascular disease, associated with freight transportation and diesel pollution, among other factors, in vulnerable, low-income communities adjacent to freeways, designated truck routes, ports, rail yards, warehouses, and distribution centers. (This project is supported by funding from The California Endowment)

The Mid-City Community Advocacy Network will conduct an HIA to inform two policy decisions intended to improve juvenile justice outcomes through “restorative justice” interventions, such as creating opportunities for victims and offenders to discuss the crime and residual effects and for the offender, victim, and community to seek a joint resolution. The first policy under consideration is a proposal by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors to adopt a restorative justice alternative to youth incarceration for the Probation Department. The second is a proposal by the San Diego City Council to adopt a restorative justice alternative to youth arrest for the San Diego Police Department.

The HIA will explore how restorative justice alternatives can increase opportunities for school participation and community engagement, which can reduce the risk of depression, obesity, and violence. It will also consider how restorative justice can improve educational attainment, in turn increasing opportunities for better-paying jobs and access to resources and safer living environments, which can reduce stress, increase healthy food consumption, and improve mental health. (This project is supported by funding from The California Endowment)

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas, will conduct an HIA to inform decisions by the Nevada State Legislature on modifying availability of full-day kindergarten and allocating state funding to support full-day kindergarten in high-risk schools. The HIA will consider how changes to access to full-day kindergarten—particularly for low-income students—could affect overall health status and the risk of many illnesses in childhood and throughout life.

The University of Virginia’s School of Architecture and Department of Public Health Sciences will lead an HIA to inform development of a Community Master Plan with the Santo Domingo Pueblo tribe, outside Santa Fe, New Mexico. The community is home to 5,100 adults and children, many of whom live in older, historic pueblo dwellings with poor indoor air quality, ventilation, and general living conditions. The master plan will include culturally appropriate housing, pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, and parks and recreational facilities. The HIA will analyze the potential health impacts of strategies proposed in the plan, with a focus on decisions related to healthy housing.

The Kohala Center will conduct an HIA of proposed regulations associated with a community-managed fishery policy for the Hawaiian Native Mo’omomi fishery on the north shore of Molokai. State-level decision-makers are reviewing the current fishery management policy and will consider legally protecting traditional fishing practices. The HIA will examine how the proposed changes to the fishery management policy could affect health through its impact on diet, income, food security, and community cohesion for native Hawaiians on Molokai.

The Louisiana Public Health Institute will conduct an HIA of four power generation alternatives for east New Orleans as the Michoud natural gas plants are retired: a gasification plant that will use municipal garbage; a hybrid solar-natural gas plant; an off-shore wind farm; and a Mississippi River turbine project. The HIA will consider the health implications associated with changes in air quality (which can affect asthma and cardiovascular disease), consumer power costs (which can affect people’s ability to afford food, housing, and health care), and local traffic and employment (which have implications for injury and general health).

Human Impact Partners, in collaboration with the Education from the Inside Out Coalition, will conduct an HIA to inform the New York State Legislature's consideration of a bill to repeal a ban on providing student financial aid awards for postsecondary education to incarcerated persons through the state's Tuition Assistance Program. The HIA will analyze, for example, the relationship between education programs offered in prison and educational attainment, employment and income, and recidivism among incarcerated individuals and their families, and the implications for physical and mental health for individuals, families, and the community.

New Mexico Voices for Children will conduct an HIA of a proposed tax on food in the state. In 2004, the New Mexico Legislature exempted food from the gross receipts tax, the state’s version of the sales tax. However, state legislators—under pressure from local governments faced with declining revenues—are considering allowing localities to reinstate a tax on food. New Mexico ranks poorly on multiple health and poverty indicators, and a tax on food could disproportionately impact low-income and minority communities. The HIA will explore potential trade-offs from changes in the price of food, such as the adverse impact on food security, nutrition, and diet-related health concerns (including obesity and diabetes), as well as the potential benefits of increased local revenue, which can be used for services important to health.

The Institute for Wisconsin’s Health Inc. will conduct an HIA to inform county, municipal, township, and tribal decisions related to mining silica sand for industrial use. This effort will inform specific policy decisions in the Ho-Chunk Nation (a tribe), Trempealeau County, Pierce County, and three townships in Eau Claire County. The HIA will address potential health concerns, such as exposure to airborne crystalline silica, along with potential health benefits, such as job creation, and will provide evidence-based recommendations to minimize risks and maximize benefits for health. Results of the assessment should be of value in other jurisdictions in Western Wisconsin and in areas of the country with similar geographic characteristics.

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