Can Community Development Make Cities Healthier? Insights and Action on the Social Determinants of Health

The built environment, social factors, economic conditions, and other community-level characteristics influence health far more than does medical care. While epidemiologic evidence provides insights into how living conditions can affect health, translating research into action, especially on a large scale, is a pressing challenge. This presentation will discuss Massachusetts’ implementation of one federal initiative, the Community Transformation Grants Program, designed to making living conditions healthier by changing neighborhood contexts. Challenging the conventionally narrow scope of “public health interventions,” the talk will address the roles of planning and community development in keeping people healthy. It will expand on Arcaya and Briggs’ 2011 argument that a “social determinants of health” framework can engage planners in reducing health disparities and achieving overall improvements in population health (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22068397)

Mariana Arcaya (DUSP ’08) manages the Metropolitan Area Planning Council’s Public Health Division, and oversees the implementation of a Community Transformation Grant in Middlesex County, MA. She is a doctoral candidate at the Harvard School of Public Health, and a Community Development Graduate Research Fellow at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

Lunch will be served; RSVP to hcrawfor@mit.edu.