The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is soliciting proposals from qualified municipalities and non-profit community-based organizations to expand its Health Equity Zone (HEZ) initiative to additional communities. RIDOH will distribute approximately $1.4 million through this funding opportunity. Existing Health Equity Zones, and new communities seeking to create Health Equity Zones, can both apply for funding.
RIDOH's Health Equity Zone initiative is an innovative, place-based approach that brings people together to build healthy, resilient communities across Rhode Island. The initiative is grounded in research that shows up to eighty percent of health outcomes are determined by factors outside clinical settings, such as access to affordable, healthy foods; high-quality education; employment opportunities; and safe neighborhoods. The model encourages and equips community members and partners to collaborate to address factors like these and create healthy places for people to live, learn, work, and play.
"Every Rhode Islander, in every ZIP code, should have the opportunity to live the healthiest life possible, in the healthiest community possible," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "A key feature of our Health Equity Zone initiative is that it puts the community's voice front and center, since residents understand the challenges facing their communities the best. Public health leaders across the country are highlighting Health Equity Zones as a national model and a novel approach to funding and delivering public health services by building leadership capacity and effective coordination of communities to sustain long-term system and policy improvements. We are thrilled to expand this opportunity to additional communities here in Rhode Island."
Rhode Island currently has nine Health Equity Zones in communities across the State. Existing Health Equity Zone Collaboratives include residents, diverse community-based organizations, business people, transportation and planning experts, youth-serving organizations, educators, health professionals, and people in many other fields who are coming together in their distinct communities to address the most pressing concerns in their neighborhoods.
"What makes our HEZ strong is that it's a collaborative effort with more than 40 agencies involved who provide insight and expertise – it's not one organization doing the work," says Linda Weisinger, Executive Director of Pawtucket Central Falls Development (PCFD), a non-profit community development organization in the Pawtucket-Central Falls Health Equity Zone. "As a team, we are much stronger, more productive and work with each other to achieve concrete goals that work for our neighborhoods."
The Harvest Kitchen Cafe in Pawtucket serves as one example of this work in action. "The Harvest Kitchen Cafe has blossomed with the support of the HEZ," said Jen Stott, Harvest Kitchen Program Director. "Through PCFD we have the perfect location for our local foods Cafe and culinary job training program for youth, and the HEZ partnerships have provided resources for continued success. Our HEZ partner at Southside Community Land Trust is a source of fresh produce through their new local community gardens. Catering opportunities and collaborative learning opportunities for our trainees from supportive community partners like Agnes Little Elementary allow us to tap into programs like the Pawtucket Homework Diner. These collaborations allow Harvest Kitchen to operate successfully and create healthy food options in an area where there had been little choice. This important community hub would not have become this successful without the HEZ bringing together many partners to get it done."
Through a collaborative process, funded communities will conduct a needs assessment to build and implement a data-driven plan of action to address the factors that keep people in their neighborhoods from achieving their full potential. RIDOH will provide seed funding and support to ensure communities implement the HEZ model in line with core public health principles.
Letters of intent from communities seeking to create new Health Equity Zones are due by February 1, 2019. Full proposals from all applicants are due to the State by March 15, 2019. The initial contract period will begin in approximately July 2019 and continue for one year. Contracts may be renewed for up to four additional 12-month periods, similar to the previous four years, based on vendor performance and the availability of funds.
To learn more about RIDOH's Health Equity Zone initiative, visit www.health.ri.gov/hez [health.us5.list-manage.com].