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Reinvestment Fund and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Select Syracuse as One of 50 Invest Health Cities

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

investhealth logo retinaSyracuse, NY—  A team of Syracuse community organizations, including the Downtown Committee of Syracuse, Inc., has been selected by Reinvestment Fund and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to take part in the new Invest Health initiative. The selection includes a $60,000 grant and the opportunity to participate in a vibrant learning community of cities carrying out efforts toward improved health. Invest Health is aimed at transforming the ways leaders from mid-size American cities, such as Syracuse, work together to help low-income communities thrive. There is specific attention placed on community features that drive health, such as access to safe and affordable housing, places to play and exercise, and quality jobs.

Syracuse was one of 50 mid-size cities selected from more than 170 communities that applied for 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 Syracuse Invest Health team comprises representatives from the grant applicant, the Downtown Committee of Syracuse, Inc.; the City of Syracuse Department of Neighborhood and Business Development; the anchor institution, Upstate Medical University; Onondaga County Health Department’s Bureau of Health Promotion & Disease Prevention; and Cooperative Federal, a certified Community Development credit union. The team will focus on strategies to improve access to healthy food within Downtown Syracuse, with an emphasis on the built environment and transit-oriented development.

“We are honored to be selected from a pool of national applicants,” said Merike Treier, executive director of the Downtown Committee. “Our participation in Invest Health will help guide us to proven strategies already underway in other mid-sized communities, which we can adapt and tailor to our needs. It’s exciting to have dedicated resources to research the best ways to expand healthy food access in Downtown Syracuse.”

“Syracuse is proud to be included in this select group of cities included in the Invest Health initiative, an effort that truly recognizes the merging of the community development and healthcare fields,” said Paul Driscoll, Commissioner of the City of Syracuse Department of Neighborhood and Business Development. “The collaboration has already resulted in increased communication and planning, both locally and among cities of comparable size throughout the nation, on issues related to healthy foods, transportation and housing.

“Upstate Medical University is pleased to be working with our community partners to build a healthier community. We look forward to rolling up our sleeves to work on this important initiative,” said Danielle Laraque-Arena, MD, FAAP, President of Upstate Medical University. “We know that improving the health of our communities means more than having the access to medical care, it means safe neighborhoods for families, access to healthy food, affordable housing and community programs that instill wellness.”

“We are delighted to participate in the Invest Health program whose mission aligns with ours,” said Indu Gupta, MD, MPH, the Onondaga County Commissioner of Health. “This is an excellent opportunity for the Health Department to strengthen its collaborative work with our local partners to improve the health of our community."

"By participating in Invest Health, Syracuse can take one step toward addressing the effects of concentrated poverty in our communities," said Ron Ehrenreich, Treasurer and CEO of Cooperative Federal.

The program has the potential to fundamentally transform the way Syracuse improves opportunities to live healthy lives by addressing the drivers of health including jobs, housing, education, community safety and environmental conditions.

Syracuse’s projects will explore a broad range of ideas, incorporating additional community partners to catalog existing resources. The team will study successful initiatives in other communities and recommend a pipeline of projects to increase access to healthy food.

The project team traveled to Philadelphia for a kick-off meeting June 7th through 10th and will meet regularly to share lessons learned throughout the 18-month project. 

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 efforts toward improved health, and receive a $60,000 grant for research and implementation. Syracuse 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.

“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.”

“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.”

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.


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