Access to healthy food can support not only personal health but neighborhood health

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It says something about the persistence of food deserts in low-income neighborhoods when the managers of Carver Market, a new grocery store in Historic South Atlanta, have to drive 200 miles roundtrip each week to a small town in Alabama to stock Carver’s shelves.

There’s been a lot of talk and research about the importance of access to healthy food as a social determinant of health. Obesity, diabetes, heart disease — all are linked to diet. …


A successful demonstration program lays the foundation for a $13 million funding pool for supportive housing.

By Barbara Ray

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Photo/ Mr. G’s Travels

Joanne was short of breath. It was 2017 and she was homeless, living on the streets in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. Joanne (a pseudonym) has bipolar disease and self-medicates with alcohol and crack-cocaine, according to the local alderman, James Cappleman. She’s been arrested at least 18 times and picked up by police far more than that. Joanne is also well-known to the staff at Weiss Hospital in the neighborhood. Cappleman was with Joanne when she became short of breath. …


How leaders in community development and health see the future after coronavirus.

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

By Barbara Ray, for Build Healthy Places Network

The coronavirus has plunged the country into a crisis few alive have ever experienced. As the weeks wore on and the death toll mounted, the pandemic did something else: It laid bare our country’s deep inequities. Those getting sick and dying were disproportionately low-income people of color. The essential workers in the grocery stores and delivery vans were largely low-income people of color. And the small businesses most impacted were often run by people of color. …


Community development, health systems, policymakers, and others can come together to help ensure that loneliness and isolation among seniors are a thing of the past.

By Barbara Ray

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Photo/ Bruno Martins on Unsplash

We probably haven’t met them. The neighbor on the third floor who never goes out. The gentleman down the street whose garage door stays shut. The elderly woman in the big house whose husband died a few years ago. They are among the roughly 28 million Americans over age 60 who are lonely.

A few weeks ago, Dr. Carla Perissinotto, associate chief for clinical programs in geriatrics at University of California, San Francisco, visited one of her patients in a third-floor walkup in a public housing building in San Francisco. Her patient had not been out of her apartment for five years — not because she didn’t want to leave, but because she couldn’t. …


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Photo/ Barbara Ray

by Barbara Ray

Are Opportunity Zones a boondoggle for investors or a way to build opportunities in neglected neighborhoods?

Jared Kushner is on board. So is Anthony Scaramucci and the reformed 1980s junk bond king Michael Milken. Opportunity Zones are grabbing headlines and getting investors’ attention with a tax break that could potentially funnel billions of much needed capital into low-income communities.

Ushered in by senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tim Scott (R-SC) on just six pages of the massive 2017 federal tax overhaul, the new legislation allows wealthy investors to defer capital gains taxes—which range from 15 to 20 percent of the profit on investments — if they invest the gains (via a specially designated Opportunity Zone investment fund¹) in low-income census tracts for at least five years. But the big prize comes if they hold the investments for at least ten years, when any appreciation on the new investment becomes tax-free. So if a $5 million investment is worth $9 million after a decade, the investor has a $4 million tax-free gain. …


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Photo/ DVIDSHUB

by Liz Duffrin

Cities and states are taking it upon themselves to address the risk to low-income communities of climate-related displacement.

Little Haiti in Miami, a low-income neighborhood north of downtown, is rich in Caribbean culture, family-owned restaurants, and colorful street murals yet poor in amenities that would ordinarily attract real estate developers. But in a city vulnerable to sea level rise caused by a heating planet, one feature has helped Little Haiti become one of the nation’s fastest-gentrifying neighborhoods — higher elevation.

Little Haiti and four other low-income, high-elevation neighborhoods in Miami became a national symbol of “climate gentrification” last year, a term Harvard University researchers coined in a report focused on Miami-Dade County. …


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Chicago’s West Side. Photo/ Eric Young Smith

Research is documenting the harmful effects on children when families must keep moving to find a safe, affordable home.

by Liz Duffrin

On a spring day in 2014, Latisha Lacey, a single mother, moved into a freshly rehabbed two-bedroom home on Chicago’s West Side. It was affordable at $850 a month, so as time passed she tried to ignore the drug dealers in the alley, the landlords’ advances, and the prostitutes he invited into the basement. But her active boys disturbed his trysts, she said, and her continued rejection angered him. One day, without explanation, he refused her rent check. A week before Christmas 2015, he evicted her.

That rental was her sixth in fourteen years. One place had been riddled with drug dealing, another with rats. In another, she broke her lease after a break-in, suspecting the maintenance man. Another had a bad cockroach infestation from a second-hand oven the landlord installed. Worse, a routine screening at the pediatrician’s office had discovered alarmingly high levels of lead in her toddler’s blood. City inspectors arrived at her building and found lead paint everywhere, but the landlord refused to abate it. After a year, Lacey heeded the doctor’s warning and moved out. …


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Residents of Wisconsin Rapids discuss the redevelopment of the Daily Tribune building. Photo/ Incourage.

Small towns face unique hurdles in economic development

by Carl Vogel

Gloria Dickerson grew up without much in Drew, Mississippi, one of a dozen small Delta towns in Sunflower County. She left to get her accounting degree at Ole Miss and after graduation in 1974, she moved to Jackson for a job.

Her story is not uncommon in rural America. Small towns like Drew struggle with declining, and aging, populations as youth move away for greener pastures. Drew lost 14 percent of its population between 2000 and 2010 alone. Economic development is difficult to jumpstart without population — or capital — to support it. But without a robust economy, families struggle, poverty takes hold and persists, sometimes for generations. In Sunflower County where Drew is located, poverty rates are 35 percent and jobs are hard to find. With persistent poverty, health suffers. Rural Americans are at higher risk than others for chronic diseases and injuries, and life expectancy in rural America is two years shorter than in the rest of the country, research shows. …


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Photo courtesy of Bon Secours Baltimore Health System

By Liz Duffrin

Opening a children’s museum seems an unlikely endeavor for a health care system. So does establishing a trendy restaurant district. But these are just two of the innovative strategies financed in recent years by Catholic health systems seeking to spur economic development and improve well-being in the low-income communities they serve.

Research finds that medical care plays a limited role in good health and that other factors like strong social networks, employment, high-quality housing, education, and access to healthy food are far more influential. A growing awareness of these “social determinants of health” is one reason the Affordable Care Act required nonprofit hospitals to focus on preventing disease, not just treating it. As a result, more hospitals are searching for ways to improve quality of life in the communities they serve. …


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Denver’s light rail stop at W. 10th Avenue and Osage Street was called the “station to nowhere.” Photo/ Cassidy James Blaede, Google Maps.

Equitable transit-oriented development projects can help cities like Denver improve the health of their community.

By Natalie Orenstein

Lynne Picard and her colleagues at the Denver Housing Authority (DHA) used to call the light-rail stop at W. 10th Avenue and Osage Street the “station to nowhere.”

“No one got on or off it,” she said. “It was costly. There was no activity in the area.”

The only thing in the immediate vicinity of the station, which sits just outside downtown Denver in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, was a 254-unit public housing project. …

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Build Healthy Places

By joining forces, community development and health professionals can have a more powerful impact. www.buildhealthyplaces.org

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