The County Health Rankings, released every year since 2010 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, provide data snapshots of health for every county in our nation and make it clear that where you live influences how well and how long you live. The Rankings are based on a model of population health that emphasizes factors that make communities healthier places to live, learn, work, and play.
But the Rankings release offers more than just data. It is also a powerful call to action that community leaders can leverage to improve health for everyone. The 2019 County Health Rankings Key Findings Report includes evidence-informed strategies and examples from communities to help others identify and implement solutions.
Upholding the wisdom within communities is a value that Healthy Places by Design shares with County Health Rankings & Roadmaps (CHR&R), and one reason why our partnership has been so strong. We have worked together to acknowledge and highlight how communities strategically use data and tailor strategies to address their unique needs and contexts.
Since 2016, Healthy Places by Design has supported the CHR&R Action Acceleration and Collaborative Learning initiative, which funds these types of community-led efforts. This work has been made possible through a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, and Healthy Places by Design. The funding opportunity was designed with a rapid-response or opportunity grants approach, enabling communities to respond to timely priorities.
The 37 CHR&R Action Acceleration and Collaborative Learning Fund awardees to date have addressed a range of health factors, including housing. Specifically, the following projects demonstrate community-grounded strategies that improve housing and health.
These communities not only share a common focus on housing and health, but also demonstrate the value of understanding what a community’s most pressing needs are before identifying promising solutions. This helps ensure that when funding or resources become available, communities are able to seize those opportunities.
Identifying communities’ needs can begin with an exploration of this year’s Rankings data and an authentic engagement process to understand how the data intersects with residents’ lived experiences. One of Healthy Places by Design’s six Essential Practices, Community Engagement is an intentional process of empowering residents to make meaningful contributions to the planning and implementation of solutions in their own communities, and one that can build hope and momentum for a culture of health.