Skip Navigation or Skip to Content

Post From Expert Insights

Public Health and Community Development Roundtable: Reflections on How Sectors Can Join Forces to Advance Health and Racial Equity

Written by Alexis Sims on June 22, 2023

Share this post!

In May 2023, Build Healthy Places Network collaborated with the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors (NACDD) to host a ‘Thought Leader Roundtable: Building the Bridge between Public Health and Community Development Sectors to advance Health and Racial Equity,’ in Washington, D.C. 

The goal of the roundtable conversation was to create a space for generative cross-sector discussion to examine the opportunities and barriers to public health and community development collaboration. Too often, these sectors remain siloed in their work supporting under-resourced communities instead of working together to create equitable policies and approaches for residents to thrive. 

The idea is not a new one. So why this conversation? And why now?

BHPN believes that in the wake of the largest global public health crisis of a century, there is a new opportunity for public health to re-imagine their role in multi-sector coalitions, with greater clarity around joining forces to advance health and racial equity for disinvested communities. We believe there is a growing body of knowledge around the critical role of addressing the drivers of health and tools to help us get there.

For this reason, we framed our conversation on the Vital Conditions for Health and Well-Being which outlines the various factors in a community that form the drivers of health and organizes them around the condition of civic muscle and belonging. It also creates access points for cross-sector collaboration between public health and the community development sector. 

Bobby Milstein, the Director of System Strategy at The Rippel Foundation provided an informative presentation outlining the Vital Conditions framework consisting of humane housing, reliable transportation, a thriving natural world, meaningful work and wealth, and belonging and civic muscle. 

It was evident from the conversation that cross-sector partnerships are vital to creating meaningful change and conditions where families can create healthier futures. 

Several powerful and provocative themes emerged, just a few of which are shared below.

  • Stewardship is more imperative than the power of leadership. When people and organizations become stewards, they recognize the value of working together in coalitions, taking collective responsibility to create conditions where everyone can thrive. 
  • Maintaining communities at the center of the decision-making process is critical to creating a sense of belonging and civic muscle. Extending this to participatory budgeting processes empowers community members in determining a path to create prosperous communities and fosters ownership. 
  • Urgent services are life-saving, however, no amount of urgent services will produce a thriving experience.
  • Public health data can be harmful when researchers are not good stewards of the data, resulting in narratives that reinforce the marginalization of communities and racial stereotypes. 
  • There are too few examples of community development and public health partnerships but also opportunities to build on bright spots presented during the pandemic as public health leaders realized cross-sector partnerships must be established to gain the community’s trust.  
  • Multiple attendees shared that partnerships between the two sectors are happening downstream and would like to learn more about upstream efforts to advance racial and health equity.

We’re excited by the level of engagement from our participants and are eager to dig into the rich data, these important insights as well as other emerging themes from the roundtable. 

In this moment of reformation, let’s organize across sectors, aligning around community-driven solutions to create equitable communities where everyone has the chance to thrive. 

Business as usual will not get us there. 

We hope to tap into and learn from the creativity of public health practitioners advancing racial equity and set it as a central standard. 

BHPN and NACDD are working together to create resources prioritizing community voice, addressing the barriers to cross-sector partnerships, and identifying opportunities to leverage resources among the community development and public health sectors to create thriving communities.  

We look forward to sharing more with you in the near future.

Build Healthy Places Network would like to thank the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors for their partnership, and attendees for their time and expertise. 



About the Author


Alexis Sims

Alexis is the Communications Specialist at Build Healthy Places Network. She has a background in public health project management and public health communication. She previously worked with Native communities in the non-profit sector to provide technical assistance to improve public health infrastructure and combat opioid overdoses. She has experience creating and developing health communication materials and content, coordinating work plans and timelines, and building relationships with key stakeholders to strengthen community and stakeholder engagement.  She currently assists the BHPN team with creating and developing resources to advance racial equity and uplift the importance of cross-sector partnerships. Alexis holds a Master’s degree in Public Health from Baylor University.