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What meeting did you attend?
The National Alliance of Community Economic Development Association’s (NACEDA) 9th Annual Summit in Cleveland, Ohio. This year was particularly relevant to the Network because for the first time they featured a one-day symposium on Community Development & the Social Determinants of Health. The main focus of the Health Symposium was to “foster local and regional partnerships that improve health and wellness in low-income communities around the country.” Funding for the health symposium came from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the New Ventures Fund Health Equity Convening Project. Beginning in Fall 2015 a group of organizations were funded to host convenings to discuss how their work addressed health equity and the social determinants of health. NACEDA was one of the 15 funded organizations, along with the Sierra Club, the National Disability Rights Center, Healthcare Without Harm and others.
I was a part of the steering committee along with some of our close partners including Amy Gillman of Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), Mary Helen Petrus of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, and Robert Zdeneck of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. I was the opening keynote speaker for the day and Kevin Barnett of the Public Health Institute was the lunchtime keynote.
What was the focus of the day’s discussion?
My presentation focused on the fundamentals of the social determinants of health and why they are related to community development. There was a lot of interest at the meeting on the concept of social determinants of health and the link to community development but not yet a lot of knowledge on the topic. The primary audience was representatives of statewide and regional economic development associations along with a number of community development corporation (CDC) leaders and, for this meeting, also representatives from regional hospitals, healthcare systems, and public health officials.
Beyond the general overview of social determinants of health there were small rapid fire panels featuring examples of regional partnerships between health care systems and community development corporations and a discussion of the challenges and opportunities of working together.
How does this meeting reflect the movement of cross sector collaboration?
This was the first time that health has been a specific focus for the NACEDA conference. Since NACEDA is a gathering of associations, not just individual organizations, you are able to reach a very broad group of organizations in a relatively short period of time. The attendees will bring the knowledge back to their respective associations who will then share the knowledge with the organizations that make up the associations. I was also able to provide extensive resources from the Network including our Jargon Buster, MeasureUp, and Partner Finder. Our tools were designed specifically for community development and health professionals who are interested in this type of work but are unsure of where to start, so this was an ideal audience with whom to share them.
Solutions will arise from individual places that try out new approaches and demonstrate what works and what doesn’t work.
What’s the best question anyone asked you?
One topic that kept coming up was how to measure change and impact of this work on health, so the question of how to define short- and long-term outcomes was asked. Too often now, the primary outcomes being measured are solely medical diagnosis and cost savings. But it’s quite possible that those are not the right outcomes to measure impact. While lowers costs and fewer medical diagnoses are the long-term goals, there needs to be a much broader collection of interim outcomes tied to the social determinants that are more directly linked to the actual community investments and economic development. Community economic development organizations can make big differences in the pathways connecting neighborhoods to health, but they’re not medical interventions and shouldn’t be held solely to medical outcomes as measures of success.
How can community development and public health work together?
Community development learned that there is a growing interest from public health and healthcare around place-based strategies to improve neighborhood health and reduce medical costs. As a result, there are a lot of potential partners out there and a lot of work still to be done determining what those partnerships will look like, especially in terms of financing. If we continue to have as many of these conversations as possible, a fraction of them will move on to action. We at the Network don’t have all the answers, so it is important that people talk to one another. Solutions will arise from individual places that try out new approaches and demonstrate what works and what doesn’t work.