Health Equity and Community Design Technical Assistance (TA) Pilot Origin Story
In 2021, the Vermont Department of Health (VDH) was awarded a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to address COVID-19 health disparities among populations that are at high-risk and underserved, including racial and ethnic minority populations and rural communities. These groups include, but are not limited to people of color, indigenous peoples, refugees and English language learners, LGBTQ+, people experiencing homelessness, Vermonters who are justice-involved, people living with disabilities and people living in rural communities. These groups are referred to as “priority populations”.
VDHs Physical Activity and Nutrition’s Healthy Community Design Program was allocated a portion of the funds. In partnership with the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), the idea of a Health Equity and Community Design Technical Assistance (TA) Pilot was developed, with the goals of:
- Supporting communities to build, leverage, and expand infrastructure support for COVID-19 prevention and control among populations that are at higher risk and underserved
- Mobilizing partners and collaborators to advance health equity and address social determinants of health as they relate to COVID-19 health disparities among populations at higher risk and that are underserved
- Providing support, additional capacity, and resources to historically marginalized and underrepresented “priority population” communities to engage community members in a collaborative process to co-develop, co-design, and implement local placemaking projects that are inclusive, equitable, and healthy in partnership with Vermont’s Better Places program.
The vision for this project was for TA Pilot to provide extra capacity and resources to communities to develop healthy community design and placemaking plans and ideas, that center on equity. The TA was available to all eligible communities to help advance healthy community design and health equity projects and help prepare communities that were interested in, but not yet ready to apply for, DHCD’s Better Places crowdfunding grants.
The Health Equity and Community Design Technical Assistance (TA) Pilot:
- Assessed the barriers and needs in the built environment for centering health equity in community design projects;
- Provided 23 historically marginalized and underserved communities/populations access to services such as community designers, landscape architects, planners, community engagement specialists, community artists, outreach and marketing specialists, disability consultants, language translators, and public health and health equity experts to develop community-driven neighborhood/village health equity and placemaking ideas, designs, and project plans focused on improving public spaces to make communities more inclusive, welcoming, and connected, and;
- Created resources and trainings to offer learnings and resources to all Vermont communities.