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City of Tuscaloosa Named One of 50 Invest Health Cities by Reinvestment Fund and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 

Tuscaloosa to join innovative, national program to improve health in low-income neighborhoods

May 17, 2016

The City of Tuscaloosa has been selected by Reinvestment Fund and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to take part in the new Invest Health initiative. Invest Health is aimed at transforming how leaders from mid-size American cities work together to help low-income communities thrive, with specific attention to community features that drive health such as access to safe and affordable housing, places to play and exercise and quality jobs.

Tuscaloosa was selected from more than 180 teams from 170 communities that applied to the initiative. Cities with populations between 50,000 and 400,000 were asked to form five-member teams including representatives from the public sector, community development and an anchor institution, preferably academic or health-related. Tuscaloosa’s team comprises representatives from healthcare, housing, community development and the public sector. The Tuscaloosa Invest Health team seeks to improve the health of residents through community design, and reflect the community’s pride in athletic tradition by integrating facilities and programs that encourage a healthy lifestyle.

When presented with the opportunity to apply for this resource, our team realized that we could not bring outcomes to fruition with just our five team members,” said Cynthia W. Burton, Executive Director of Community Service Programs and one of the team representatives. “Our role will be primarily one as agents of change in the community, working in collaboration with other entities such as educational institutions, business organizations, faith-based organizations, governmental officials and other non-profits, as well as the targeted communities in which we plan to address needs and disparities. Our team members, Deborah Tucker, CEO of Whatley Health Services, the anchor institution noted in our proposal, LaParry Howell, director of federal programs for the City of Tuscaloosa, Ron Parrish, executive director of Tuscaloosa Homebuilders Association and Dr. Jerry Palmer, a retired pediatrician, provide a unique makeup of individuals to lead the efforts of the Invest Health Initiative.

Mid-size American cities face some of the nation’s deepest challenges with entrenched poverty, poor health and a lack of investment. But they also offer fertile ground for strategies that improve health and have the potential to boost local economies. The program has the potential to fundamentally transform the way Tuscaloosa improves opportunities to live healthy lives by addressing the drivers of health including jobs, housing, education, community safety and environmental conditions.

With a long history in community development finance, we are excited to help create a pipeline to channel capital into low-income communities through public and private investments,” said Amanda High, chief of strategic initiatives at Reinvestment Fund. “Our goal is to transform how cities approach tough challenges, share lessons learned and spur creative collaboration.

Over the next 18 months, Invest Health teams will take part in a vibrant learning community, have access to highly skilled faculty advisers and coaches who will guide their efforts toward improved health, and receive a $60,000 grant. Tuscaloosa’s team will also engage a broader group of local stakeholders to encourage local knowledge sharing.  Learning from the program will be synthesized and disseminated through the project website, investhealth.org.

Public officials, community developers and many others have been working in low-income neighborhoods for years, but they haven’t always worked together,” said Dr. Donald Schwarz, RWJF vice president of program. “Invest Health aims to align their work and help neighborhoods thrive by intentionally incorporating health into community development.

Tuscaloosa’s projects will explore a broad range of ideas from job skills training to nurturing and supporting families. Examples include a “Safe and Health Homes Project,” designed to assist the elderly by making home modifications that facilitate health and safety.  The “Safe Harbor for Children” project proposes to bring together a wide coalition of programs, creating and strengthening a network of support for children and families faced with toxic stress.

Project teams will travel to Philadelphia for a kick-off meeting June7 and will meet regularly to share lessons learned throughout the 18-month project. A full list of awardees and more information is available at www.investhealth.org.

  
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About Reinvestment Fund

Reinvestment Fund is a catalyst for change in low-income communities. We integrate data, policy and strategic investments to improve the quality of life in low-income neighborhoods. Using analytical and financial tools, we bring high-quality grocery stores, affordable housing, schools and health centers to the communities that need better access—creating anchors that attract investment over the long term and help families lead healthier, more productive lives. Learn more at reinvestment.com. 

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are striving to build a national Culture of Health that will enable all to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org. Follow the Foundation on Twitter at www.rwjf.org/twitter or on Facebook at www.rwjf.org/facebook.