NeighborWorks® Rochester Chosen for Pilot Health Study

Mom and daughterNeighborWorks® Rochester actively remains current on trends and research in the field of community development through specific Community Initiatives, including the intersection of housing and health. According to the Healthcare Intelligence Network, “Evidence is mounting that social determinants of health—social, economic and environmental factors that impact quality of life—significantly influence population health. Research published by Brigham Young University in 2015 determined that the social determinants of loneliness and social isolation pose as great a threat to longevity as obesity. Cognizant of the need to promote social and physical environments conducive to optimal health, more than two-thirds of healthcare organizations now assess populations for social determinants of health (SDOH) as part of ongoing care management.”[1]

Because of attention focused on health outcomes both from community partners and from funders, it is increasingly necessary for community development organizations to demonstrate that their programming makes an impact on the SDOH of their target populations in a way that measurably improves health outcomes over time. With support from organizations including the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation and the Kresge Foundation, Enterprise Community Partners and NeighborWorks® America launched a Health Outcomes Demonstration Pilot in order to “build organizations’ capacity to evaluate the health outcomes of their work through a national cohort, building the body of evidence demonstrating housing and community development’s contribution to improved health outcomes.”[2] Only 20 organizations were awarded the opportunity to participate, which includes technical assistance, grant support, peer-to-peer learning, and most importantly, access to a comprehensive set of data collection tools that were developed and tested by Success Measures to measure health outcomes of programs and initiatives on the populations they serve.

NeighborWorks® Rochester was awarded a slot in the Pilot to evaluate Healthy Blocks, its creative neighborhood-strengthening initiative that makes a five-year commitment to a neighborhood (in this case, the Triangle) in transition with the goals of improving property conditions, resident engagement, and neighborhood image. Healthy Blocks staff worked with a consultant to develop an evaluation that focuses on the SDOH upon which the projects, events, and other elements of Healthy Blocks have the most direct effect; namely, social cohesion (community efficacy, inter-resident trust, participation, etc.). The Healthy Blocks initiative is a more complicated endeavor to evaluation compared with other service-providing programs that have more direct and specific contact and service delivery to participants. Because the initiative is designed to work in tandem with market forces and measures its success based resident satisfaction, block conditions, and rising home values (all of which have a wide variety of confounding variables), it is with caution that we attribute improvements in health outcomes to the work directly done by Healthy Blocks. However, in an effort to evaluate the initiative as accurately as possible, our target population consists of Triangle neighborhood residents who have been directly involved in at least one HB-sponsored activity or reside in a geographical location immediately surrounding our existing or planned public streetscape improvements.

[1] Abstract from “Social Determinants of Health in 2017: Scarcity of Supportive Services Hampers SDOH Linkages” 2017 Healthcare Intelligence Network <http://www.hin.com/library/registerSocialHealthDeterminants2017.html>

[2] Excerpt from Health Outcomes Demonstration Project Q&A Webinar, presented 12 September 2016 Enterprise Community Partners https://www.enterprisecommunity.org/resources/national-health-outcomes-demonstration-project-qa-webinar-1-18246, emphasis added

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