The New York State Health Foundation (NYSHealth) and New York Community Trust (NYCT) launched the Healthy Neighborhoods initiative to address some of the underlying problems that affect the health of New York State communities and to support them to become places that are healthier and more active. Through this initiative, NYSHealth supported six Healthy Neighborhoods Fund communities across the State. From 2015-2019, NYCT partnered with NYSHealth in a complementary initiative, South Bronx Healthy and Livable Neighborhoods, investing in three neighborhoods in the South Bronx.
This collaborative Healthy Neighborhoods initiative aims to improve access to healthy, affordable food; improve access to safe places where residents can exercise and be active; connect children and adults to programs that support healthy behaviors; and make use of City agency resources to improve health and wellness in New York communities.
Healthy Places by Design has worked closely with both funders to co-develop, coordinate, and facilitate a flexible peer learning collaborative that meets the sites’ current and emergent learning needs and lays a foundation for their leadership and the sustainability of their work.
Our support has included:
Healthy Places by Design has underscored the importance that lifting resident leaders has in ensuring sustainability of the initiative’s impacts. One of our organization’s goals is to identify and support emerging leaders by helping build their confidence to take bold, decisive action and their capacity to sustain it. One of the Healthy Neighborhoods sites, Niagara Falls, has embraced this approach by building in resident leadership from the start. Its team intentionally worked with community members early on, going as far as to formally engage residents to determine, coordinate, and implement the work.
"The most (pleasantly) surprising thing I’ve learned from collaborating with Healthy Places by Design on our Healthy Neighborhoods Fund initiative has been watching grantees from different organizations work together beyond formal learning collaborative structures. Examples have included everything from a 'gentrification happy hour' to groups conducting their own site visits to learn from one another firsthand. And I know they will continue to find new ways to connect long after our funding ends.”
Program Officer, New York State Health Foundation
“Resident capacity is boundless. Our collective stories and experiences spark focused ideas that are re-imagined through projects implemented within the community… I’ve learned that our community is viewed through many different lenses, and I must understand them to communicate effectively to do 'the work.' Patience and persistence are necessary skills and a work in progress for us all. I also want to highlight my co-leader Keyona Dunn. She has love for her community but prefers to work in the background, though she has lately taken on more of a leadership role.”
Co-Chair, Create a Healthier Niagara Falls Collaborative
Chairman of the Human Rights Commission, City Of Niagara Falls
“Resident capacity is boundless. Our collective stories and experiences spark focused ideas that are re-imagined through projects implemented within the community.”
In 2015, the New York Community Trust began investing in the Hunts Point community as part of its South Bronx Healthy and Livable Neighborhoods initiative. Urban Health Plan (UHP), a federally qualified non-profit health system, became the lead agency for a multi-year initiative to increase healthy food access and safe options for physical activity. Yineska UHP’s Healthy Livable Communities Coordinator, organized the Healthy Hunts Point Action Group, a dedicated team of residents.
Over the past 15 years, our team has been fortunate to collaborate with funders who have been strategic about their role in sustaining healthy communities. Our experience as a connector has enabled us to glean feedback from community leaders and lessons learned from funders. As funders embrace sustainable thinking, they should consider these two key lessons.
An engaging afternoon in Brownsville was part of an experiential learning meeting that project leaders and partners from these nine communities attended. Our guides for the afternoon were community partners, Brownsville residents, and members of the Community Solutions team, which led 60 people through a group brainstorming process known as Human-Centered Design, or “design thinking.”