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Reinvestment Fund and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation name Lansing one of 50 Invest Health cities

LANSING, Mich. – The city of Lansing 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.

Lansing 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 a local hospital. The Lansing team comprises representatives from Sparrow Health System, the Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP), the City of Lansing, the Ingham County Health Department and the Lansing School District. They will work to narrow disparities in life expectancy, heart disease death and violent crimes by effecting change in the built environment and by creating access to resources.

“We have significant health disparities in Lansing. Depending on where someone lives, live expectancy can vary by as much as 15 years in our county,” said Linda S. Vail, Ingham County Health Officer. “This is unacceptable. The reason goes beyond healthcare or individual behavior. This project will help us identify and ultimately address the underlying causes.”

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 Lansing 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.”

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. The Lansing team 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.”

Lansing’s team will explore a broad range of ideas from land use to economic development. Examples include affordable housing, fresh food retail, financial counseling and job training.  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.  

The Lansing Invest Health team will publically announce the award on Tuesday, May 17 at 10:30 a.m. at Lansing City Hall located at 124 W. Michigan Avenue in Lansing. The announcement will take place in the courtyard

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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 www.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.