How Grand Rapids, Michigan, Is Using Data To Advance Health Equity And Economic Opportunity

By Rosalynn Bliss: For More Info, Go Here…

Grand Rapids, Michigan, is one of the fastest-growing US cities with economic opportunities for businesses. We jumped to the top of polls for the best cities to start a business in 2015 and have maintained top rankings ever since. We also top national lists for best places to call home and raise a family.

This does not tell the whole story, though. Communities of color struggle to thrive here. We rank among the worst large US cities for African Americans economicallyAlmost 40 percent of African Americans in our city live in poverty. They are three times as likely to be unemployed as whites. More than 40 percent of Hispanics and Latinx live in poverty, and they are more than twice as likely to be unemployed.

Neighborhoods Of Focus

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has identified 17 census tracts that have higher poverty, higher unemployment, and lower rates of educational attainment than elsewhere in Grand Rapids. As mayor, I knew that for our city to equitably thrive, we had to close this opportunity gap. Together with stakeholders, we decided to focus on those identified neighborhoods. The boundaries of this region—what we refer to as our Neighborhoods of Focus—are mainly in the city’s First and Third Wards. This region is home to half of all people living in poverty in Grand Rapids but only 32 percent of the Grand Rapids total population.

To address these inequities, we have begun to intentionally focus on the service needs and gaps in the Neighborhoods of Focus. This has meant collaborating with Invest Health, a project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Reinvestment Fund, on social determinants of health solutions that have been identified as barriers to addressing the disparate outcomes in the Neighborhoods of Focus. These include affordable housing, healthy housing, maternal infant health, food security, and economic security. Invest Health partners focus exclusively on coordinating and implementing initiatives in the Neighborhoods of Focus to move the needle on improving quality of life and capacities to thrive for those currently living in poverty.

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