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

Communications Director

Eric Vreeland
evreeland@knoxvilletn.gov
(865) 215-3480

400 Main St., Room 654A
Knoxville, TN 37902

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

Posted: 05/17/2016
The City of Knoxville 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.

Knoxville 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 Knoxville team includes: Becky Wade, Knoxville Community Development; Phyllis Nichols, Knoxville Area Urban League; Martha Buchanan, Knox County Health Department; Gerald Green, Metropolitan Planning Commission; and Susan Martin, University of Tennessee-Knoxville. The grant will be administered through the East Tennessee Community Design Center (ETCDC), which will serve as fiscal agent for the team. Additionally, Michelle Eichinger of Designing4Health, LLC, assisted in developing the team’s proposal and will help in process facilitation.

According to Wayne Blasius, ETCDC executive director, “The team will explore equitable transportation solutions and mixed-use development, including local transportation and planning policy change, and integrate health impact in the planning process in development projects. Further, the team will develop a coordinated, collaborative approach and explore funding strategies to support health equity in the community planning and the built environment.”

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 Knoxville improves opportunities for 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 to help underwrite the work. Knoxville will also engage a broader group of local stakeholders to encourage local knowledge sharing. Lessons-learned from the program will be synthesized and disseminated through the 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, MD, MPH, MBA, RWJF Vice President, Program. “Invest Health aims to align their work and help neighborhoods thrive by intentionally incorporating health into community development.”

Knoxville’s project will explore a broad range of ideas including establishing a comprehensive coalition for streamlined decision making and analyzing health equity for prioritizing projects. Project teams will travel to Philadelphia for a kick-off meeting on June 7th 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.

About Reinvestment Fund
Reinvestment Fund is a catalyst for change in low-income communities. We integrate data, policy and strategic investments to improve the quality of life in low-income neighborhoods. Using analytical and financial tools, we bring high quality grocery stores, affordable housing, schools and health centers to the communities that need better access—creating anchors that attract investment over the long term and help families lead healthier, more productive lives. Learn more at reinvestment.com.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are striving to build a national Culture of Health that will enable all to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org. Follow the Foundation on Twitter at www.rwjf.org/twitter or on Facebook at www.rwjf.org/facebook.