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Reinvestment Fund and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Name Dundalk One of 50 Invest Health Cities

Dundalk has been selected by Reinvestment Fund and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to take part in the new Invest Health initiative. Invest Health is aimed at transforming how leaders from mid-size American cities work together to help low-income communities thrive, with specific attention to community features that drive health such as access to safe and affordable housing, places to play and exercise, and quality jobs.

Dundalk was selected from more than 180 teams from 170 communities that applied to the initiative. Cities with populations between 50,000 and 400,000 were asked to form five-member teams including representatives from the public sector, community development, and an anchor institution, preferably academic or health-related. The Dundalk Invest Health team comprises executive level representatives from Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Dundalk Renaissance Corporation, Dundalk Chamber of Commerce, Greater Dundalk Community Council and Dundalk Youth Services Center, and will work together to reduce health outcome disparities, improve the lives of low-income and minority groups, and stabilize the community.

“We will create stronger relationships within our diverse group of residents and other stakeholders to achieve our goal of creating a vibrant, unified community invested in the health and wellness of all of its residents, especially those in the low-income group who are key to the project’s success,” says Selwyn Ray, J.D., director of community relations, Johns Hopkins Health System. He adds, “This partnership is uniquely positioned to address the root cause of poor health outcomes and disparities in Dundalk: concentrated, enduring poverty.”

Mid-size American cities face some of the nation’s deepest challenges with entrenched poverty, poor health and a lack of investment. But they also offer fertile ground for strategies that improve health and have the potential to boost local economies. The program has the potential to fundamentally transform the way Dundalk improves opportunities to live healthy lives by addressing the drivers of health including jobs, housing, education, community safety and environmental conditions.

“With a long history in community development finance, we are excited to help create a pipeline to channel capital into low-income communities through public and private investments,” said Amanda High, Chief of Strategic Initiatives at Reinvestment Fund. “Our goal is to transform how cities approach tough challenges, share lessons learned and spur creative collaboration.”

Over the next 18 months, Invest Health teams will take part in a vibrant learning community, have access to highly skilled faculty advisors and coaches who will guide their efforts toward improved health, and receive a $60,000 grant. Dundalk also will engage a broader group of local stakeholders to encourage local knowledge sharing. Learning from the program will be synthesized and disseminated through a project website.

“Public officials, community developers, and many others have been working in low-income neighborhoods for years, but they haven’t always worked together,” said Donald Schwarz, M.D., MPH, MBA, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Vice President, Program. “Invest Health aims to align their work and help neighborhoods thrive by intentionally incorporating health into community development.”

Dundalk’s projects will explore a broad range of ideas from reducing the concentration of poverty and the number of transient residents to increasing access to mental health and substance abuse treatment. Examples could include working to connect residents with critical support services, employment and educational opportunities, instituting a rental housing stabilization program and community beautification endeavors.

Project teams will travel to Philadelphia for a kick-off meeting on June 7 and will meet regularly to share lessons learned throughout the 18-month project. A full list of awardees and more information is available at www.investhealth.org.   

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