The health of a community is closely tied to the health of its residents. Social Determinants of Health are the conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play that impact a wide variety of health outcomes. That is where CDCs can and do have a major impact on health: CDCs’ work on resident services, property maintenance and more has all been shown to impact health. Additionally, many of our members run services and programs with an explicit health focus, such as healthy food distribution programs, developing residences with supportive housing services, and improving homes with the goal of reducing asthma rates among children in the community.
A 2014 Health Impact Assessment (HIA) conducted by Health Resources in Action (HRIA) and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) detailed the clear relationship between the work of CDCs and the improvements in resident health outcomes. The HIA found evidence of decreased cardiovascular disease, domestic violence, and substance abuse in communities with active CDCs.
Building upon the 2014 Health Impact Assessment, MACDC has been a national leader in driving the convergence of health equity and community development. In 2019 we were the first state association of CDCs to hire a full-time Program Director for Health Equity to support our members in this work.
In 2020, Massachusetts CDCs, along with the rest of the world, encountered an unprecedented challenge to global health. Devastating in so many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the inextricable convergence of health and community development and presented an opportunity to further envision the ways in which health equity can be permanently embedded into the fabric of the Community Development Movement.
We provide technical assistance to support our members’ engagement in health-related programming. Often, this assistance is delivered 1-1 as MACDC’s Program Director for Health Equity helps an organization develop its program and strategy for engaging or partnering with the health sector. Our members learn from one another in the context of our Health Equity Committee which has had meetings devoted to climate change and health, health foundation partnerships, and racism and public health, among other topics. In 2020, we launched the “Wealth of Health Brown Bag Lunch” program, in which members gathered informally to chat about topics related to health equity. In 2021, we launched a racial equity and health book group. MACDC additionally distributes a “Health Equity Update” to keep our members informed of funding opportunities, new resources, and program updates.
Twice a year we offer an introductory training on “The Convergence of Health Equity and Community Development” through the Mel King Institute. We have developed a version of this training which is available to CDC boards in order to spark conversation about health needs in their community and how CDCs can address these needs. Historically we have offered trainings on hospital-CDC partnerships, aging in community, and Health Homes assessments and interventions, among others.
Strengthening CDCs relationships with hospitals
MACDC supports our members in initiating and strengthening relationships with their local hospitals. We recently published a Guide To Reading A Hospital’s Community Benefits Report, which is a tool for CDCs, CDFIs, and other community-based organizations to better understand their local hospital’s commitments to community health and to foster more collaboration between hospitals and community-based organizations. You can read about the Guide in this blog article. For an overview of how to use the guide and to learn about some existing partnerships with CDCs, check out this session from our 2021 annual meeting in the video below, or access the slides here.
Recently we’ve hosted two events to foster conversation about how CDCs and hospitals can support one another to move the needle on health outcome in Massachusetts:
In December 2020 we held our first virtual open house for Massachusetts hospitals to learn more about CDCs work in the health space.
In April 2020 we invited hospitals to a webinar to learn about the Center for Community Investment’s Investing in Community Health: A Toolkit for Hospitals. At the webinar our hospital partners had the opportunity to strategize with peers about how to accelerate hospitals’ impact in the community development space.
We additionally do and have served on several committees that help to direct hospital funding towards increasing upstream investments. These include:
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Allocation’s Committee
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Community Health Fund Advisory Committee & Governance Structure Design Committee
In the summer of 2021, MACDC launched a temporary Housing Quality and Health (HQH) working group. This group functioned as a sounding board and advisor as MACDC defined and refined what we would like to accomplish through a new HQH initiative. In the fall of 2021, we will be launching a Task Force to guide this important work. You can learn more about this work in the following blog posts:
Our policy priorities additionally support programs that seek to improve health from an economic development lens:
Get the Lead Out
We successfully advocated in 2016 for enhancements to the Commonwealth’s Get the Lead Out Program, which will make it easier for families to gain access this critical funding and thereby reduce the number of children exposed to lead. In 2020 we successful advocated for supplemental funds to recapitalize this crucial program.
Massachusetts Food Trust Program
MACDC worked with the Massachusetts Public Health Association to secure funding for the Massachusetts Food Trust Program (MFTP). The MFTP was enacted in 2014, to provide loans, grants and technical assistance for healthy food retailers and enterprises in low-and moderate-income communities. Not only do healthy food options improve the health of these communities, but they can also provide well-paying jobs and spur economic growth. MACDC and partners are surveying organizations around the state to identify those in need of the MFTP funding.
American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021
We are advocating that Massachusetts devotes $1.6 billion in ARPA funds toward affordable housing, including $100 million toward de-leading and healthy homes programs. You can learn more about that advocacy here.
Beginning in March 2020, we quickly pivoted to supporting our members in their responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Our COVID-19 Resource Page and our CDC Reopening Page represent resources and support that we’ve provided to our members throughout the pandemic. You can read more about our members response to COVID-19 in this Special Newsletter. Additionally, the following blog articles describe some highlights of MACDC and our members’ response to COVID-19:
MACDC engages in research to support our work in the health space. Most recently, we released a report describing health-related work among Massachusetts CDCs based on data from our annual GOALs survey. You can read the full report here.
If you are interested in learning more about MACDC's work in the Health Equity space, please contact our Program Director for Health Equity, Elana Brochin, at email@example.com.