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New Partnerships for Healthier Neighborhoods: Bringing Public Health and Redevelopment Together

2010 | Download

The built environment—the physical structures that make up the areas where we live, work, and play—has a profound effect on our health. The neighborhoods with the worst health outcomes are home to the poorest residents and often lack basic amenities (like grocery stores, pharmacies, and banks), have fewer parks, and experience higher crime rates.

In recent years, public health practitioners—concerned with escalating rates of chronic disease—have begun partnering with colleagues in planning and transportation agencies to work to reverse these trends. A few innovative health departments have also initiated partnerships with redevelopment agencies: unlike land use or transportation planning staff, redevelopment agencies have a specific mandate to work in low-income or “blighted” areas.

To explore lessons learned from these collaborations and identify the potential for future work, Public Health Law & Policy and the Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiative (with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation) convened staff from several of the Bay Area’s redevelopment and public health agencies in October 2009 for a roundtable in Oakland, California. This report collects observations and recommendations that emerged during that meeting, and explores the rationale and potential for public health departments and redevelopment agencies to work together more widely.

Download the report.

The key learning and recommendations from this convening extend far beyond the Bay Area to communities across the country. While redevelopment law will vary from state to state, the basic concepts and scopes of engagement apply nationwide. Readers outside California should embrace the findings of the report and work within the redevelopment law in their state to promote public health goals.

By virtue of the resources commanded by public health departments and redevelopment agencies, a collaboration harbors huge potential for mutual benefit and community health improvement, especially in low-income neighborhoods.