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HEALTH Creates Health Equity Zones

Approximately $2.15 million of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funding awarded to the Rhode Island Department of Health will fund 11 Rhode Island non-profit organizations and local governments to support innovative approaches to preventing chronic diseases, improve birth outcomes and improve the social and environmental conditions of our neighborhoods.

The Rhode Island Department of Health and these grantees will create Health Equity Zones – areas where high rates of obesity, illness, injury, chronic disease or other adverse health outcomes will be improved through coordinated strategies to reduce and manage chronic diseases, promote healthy lifestyles, assure healthy child development, and create environments where healthy choices are easier to make.

"Health is not possible without community. Health equity zones give communities the resources they need to focus on creating collaborations and building health through relationships," said Michael Fine, MD, Director of Health.

Funding will support the development of community collaboratives that include municipal leaders, residents, businesses, transportation and community planners, law enforcement, education systems and health systems, among others. These groups will look at the factors that drive poor health outcomes, and create action plans based on strategies that have been shown to be successful.

Health Equity Zone grantees include collaboratives led by the City of Providence Healthy Communities Office, Olneyville Housing Corporation, the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island, the Providence Children and Youth Cabinet in Providence; Thundermist Health Center in Woonsocket; Thundermist Health Center in West Warwick; the North Providence School Department; South County Hospital in Washington County; Women's Resource Center in Newport; the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) in Pawtucket and Central Falls, and the Town of Bristol.

"We believe that supporting community collaboratives within a defined geographic area as well as assessing the strengths and challenges at the local level, and developing a shared action plan with meaningful resident's participation will lead to improved social and environmental conditions in our neighborhoods, resulting in optimal health for all residents" said Ana Novais, Executive Director of Health, Division of Community, Family Health and Equity.

Strategies may include parent education, lifestyle diabetes prevention programs, health screenings, nutrition policies in schools and worksites, revisions to town municipal plans to improve resident access to affordable, nutritious food, policies to improve street safety and walkability, public transportation improvements, school physical activity policies, tobacco free community policies, and other place-based strategies.

For more information about Health Equity Zones please go to www.health.ri.gov.

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