Thursday, February 25, 2016

Project to assess linkage between substandard housing and poor health in Little Rock

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2016 at 12:47 PM

click to enlarge NEIL SEALY: Speaking to an Al Jazeera reporter earlier this year at the Alexander Apartment complex. - AL JAZEERA AMERICA
  • NEIL SEALY: Speaking to an Al Jazeera reporter earlier this year at the Alexander Apartment complex.

A national foundation-funded initiative called the Health Impact Project yesterday announced it will award a grant to Arkansas Community Institute in Little Rock to develop a plan to assess the impact of substandard housing on health. The study will focus on residents living south of I-630.

The Health Impact Project is a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts to promote the use of health impact assessments in policymaking decisions. Arkansas Community Institute is the 501(c)3 arm of Arkansas Community Organizations, a grassroots group organizing low-income people in Little Rock.
ACO's Neil Sealy said the planning grant of about $45,000 will "involve community meetings, surveys and looking at what research has already been done" concerning the health effects of poor housing.

The announcement calls to mind the ongoing story of the decaying Alexander Apartments on Col. Glenn Road, in which destitute tenants have been caught in a struggle between the city and landlord Jason Bolden. Little Rock code enforcement wants to shut down the apartment complex for numerous code violations and fire safety hazards. There will be hearing on the case in environmental court in Little Rock this afternoon.

Sealy said ACO's work with the Alexander Apartment tenants revealed connections between substandard housing, health and other issues. "With the Alexander situation, we have discovered a lot of barriers, such as [prison] reentry — people not being able to find a place to stay because they were incarcerated recently," he said.

From the news release from the Health Impact Project:

WASHINGTON—The Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, announced grants today to fund projects in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Each grantee will develop an evidence-based action plan for addressing social, economic, and environmental factors (such as housing, education, and community development) that lead to disparities in health outcomes—known as health inequities.

In addition to the funding, the awardees will receive technical assistance and training in tools such as health impact assessments (HIAs), which bring together scientific data, health expertise, and public input to identify the potential and often overlooked effects on public health of proposed laws, regulations, projects, policies, and programs.

“The Health Impact Project focused on Southern and Appalachian states for these seven grants because research shows that while health inequities exist in these regions, the tools to help address them—such as health impact assessments—are rarely used,” said Rebecca Morley, director of the Health Impact Project. “We are pleased to collaborate with our partners and award grants that will help organizations that have a history of successfully addressing issues such as poverty, transportation, criminal justice, education, and housing to bring health evidence and community input into the policy process—leading to better health in the future.”

“There are many factors that impact health, including where we live,” said Donald F. Schwarz, M.D., M.P.H., director at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “We are excited to support this effort to help address the health inequities faced by populations within the Southern and Appalachian states, and look forward to seeing the plans developed for addressing them.”

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