North Charleston to join innovative, national program to improve health in low-income neighborhoods

The city of North Charleston 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.

North Charleston 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 North Charleston team, led by South Carolina Community Loan Fund, comprises representatives from the City of North Charleston, Medical University of South Carolina, Metanoia, and Lowcountry Local First. Through this program, the team seeks to improve a number of factors that contribute to community health including housing, access to healthy foods, office and working space for small businesses, and recreational facilities and greenspace.

“Our team’s Invest Health plan complements the existing plans in North Charleston, as well as our organizational goals,” explained Anna Hamilton Lewin, Chief Operating Officer of South Carolina Community Loan Fund. “We are excited to work together with the city and local organizations to put these plans into action and address some of the major obstacles facing the North Charleston community.”

Mid-size American cities like North Charleston 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 North Charleston 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.”

“We recognize that partnerships are critical to providing for the immediate and long term needs of those that are sometimes the hardest to reach,” said Dawn Henry, Community Development Manager with the City of North Charleston. “The City has been very successful in forming alliances and partnerships to increase the economic and housing opportunities to our citizens and look forward to adding to those partnerships as members of the North Charleston Invest Health team.”

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. North Charleston will also engage a broader group of local stakeholders to encourage local knowledge sharing. Learning 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.”

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.

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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.

About Lowcountry Local First
Lowcountry Local First, a nonprofit advocacy organization, cultivates local economic prosperity and quality of life by increasing community support for locally-owned, independent businesses and farmers. To learn more, visit lowcountrylocalfirst.org.

About South Carolina Community Loan Fund
South Carolina Community Loan Fund is a nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) headquartered in Charleston. Our mission is to advance equitable access to capital by providing loans, technical assistance and advocacy for affordable housing, healthy food retail, community facilities and community business enterprise. Learn more at www.sccommunityloanfund.org.

About MUSC
Founded in 1824 in Charleston, The Medical University of South Carolina is the oldest medical school in the South. Today, MUSC continues the tradition of excellence in education, research, and patient care. MUSC educates and trains more than 3,000 students and residents, and has nearly 13,000 employees, including approximately 1,500 faculty members. As the largest non-federal employer in Charleston, the university and its affiliates have collective annual budgets in excess of $2.2 billion. MUSC operates a 750-bed medical center, which includes a nationally recognized Children’s Hospital, the Ashley River Tower (cardiovascular, digestive disease, and surgical oncology), Hollings Cancer Center (one of 68 National Cancer Institute designated centers), Level I Trauma Center and Institute of Psychiatry. For more information on academic information or clinical services, visit musc.edu. For more information on hospital patient services, visit www.muschealth.org.

Jamee Haley
Executive Director at Lowcountry Local First