April 7, 2015

Field Notes: Collective Impact for Healthy Neighborhoods

San Pablo

By Annie Ledbury, Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow 

The current Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellows share their ideas, inspirations and photos from the field on our blog. Learn more about the Fellowship.

A child born today on the San Pablo Avenue Corridor will die an average of 14 years sooner than her counterpart born in the more affluent Oakland Hills, just a few miles away. How might we creatively redesign the process of community development to address today’s multi-faceted health crisis? Beyond providing homes and services, which other social determinants of health might developers influence in order to address neighborhood-wide health problems? At East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC) in Oakland, California, we’re embracing a health outcomes-based approach to community development to begin to answer these questions.

SPC Action Plan Final (8)-1

We are inspired by the power of people and place, focusing pilot collective impact efforts on 5 historically disinvested neighborhoods. The first is the San Pablo Area Revitalization Collaborative (SPARC), where EBALDC serves as the “community quarterback” whose role is to organize partners around actions for health outcomes. Using a collective impact model, we align the work of neighborhood-based organizations, government agencies, and residents to take action around resident health, built environment, economy, and partnerships.

people's grocery

SPARC’s pilot actions address locally specific health priorities: hypertension, blight beautification, and housing. For instance, a resident health assistance program connects those at risk of high blood pressure to social resources, preventative clinic care, and garden-grown healthy food to prevent costly and traumatic ER visits. Another approach proposes small scale, prototypical architecture interventions to fight blight with friendly spaces, and allow real-time prototyping of commercial viability for future permanent structures. Green street improvements and multi-modal transportation options encourage neighborhood walkability. New mixed-use affordable housing properties provide healthy, safe, stress-reducing homes for families, and places for community-serving local business.


These neighborhood efforts in collective impact, rapid prototype design interventions, and healthy mixed-use buildings are beginning to move the needle on measurable health outcomes for the people of the San Pablo Avenue Corridor. But consider this fact—over $3.1 trillion were spent on healthcare last year in the US. If a more wide-reaching approach to community development could redirect even 1% of that healthcare spending, it would more than double the amount for affordable housing annually. Imagine the quality of life and scale of actions we might implement with such investment in our built environment—the beautifully complicated, healthy places where we live, learn, work, and play.

All photos courtesy of Annie Ledbury and the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation.

About the Author: Annie is hosted by the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation, an organization with historic commitments to the Asian and Pacific Islander communities and an ongoing effort to build healthy vibrant and safe neighborhoods for the diverse population of the East Bay. EBALDC has a strong interest in improving neighborhood health outcomes; Annie works to further their Healthy Neighborhoods approach and to instill a culture of design-thinking, collaboration and creative community engagement within the organization.

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