New HIA Highlights Role of Organizing in Community Development

A new health impact assessment (HIA) examining the link between public health and community development was recently released, and the results provide helpful information and recommendations to practitioners in both fields, who are increasingly collaborating in local communities and at the state level.

The HIA examined connections between community development activities and health, and identified health metrics (health outcomes that result from the investment of tax credits in communities) that could be measured and evaluated with information provided by Community Development Corporations (CDCs). This Community Investment Tax Credit (CITC) program will grant additional funding to CDCs throughout the state and lead to a better understanding of how community development activities are linked to determinants of health within communities and how health within these communities is affected as a whole.

The HIA found that CDCs serve many purposes within communities, especially those related to physical development and community planning, economic development, asset development, and community organizing, building, and empowerment. The HIA identified pathways, or links, in which these activities overlap to influence health outcomes and chronic conditions.

The HIA recommendations stress the importance of community organizing to create community cohesion that can strengthen connections and engagement that will lead to a better understanding of how CDC activities can continue at the current levels or be enhanced through the CITC program. No activities will be reduced. With a focus on community organizing, outreach, and engagement, CDC activities and CITC programs will lead to an array of beneficial health impacts such as: decreased domestic violence, reduced rates of crime and violence, less substance abuse, improved mental health conditions, and increased access to medical care. The high priority placed on community organizing, outreach and engagement was determined by the strength and consistency of current literature as well as the incorporation of stakeholder feedback.

The CITC has great potential to reduce inequalities, promote health equity, and improve health outcomes for a multitude of local residents and stakeholders across the state while emphasizing community development and empowerment.

The assessment’s findings and materials were released on Monday, September 29th at an Innovation Forum: How Can We Better Leverage the Health Impact of Community Development. Additionally, later this month, a white paper on “The Business Case for Healthy Development and Health Impact Assessments” will be released.

This HIA was conducted to inform the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) as it developed a new funding opportunity for CDCs through the CITC program. The HIA was led by Health Resources in Action (HRiA), in collaboration with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH). Read more about this community investment tax credit HIA on HRiA’s website. The Executive Summary, Full Report, and promotional videos can be found here as well.