It’s no secret that poverty in the United States is a profoundly place-based phenomenon. Where children happen to be born and raised affects the course of their futures in deep and sometimes disturbing ways. With that in mind, a growing array of of funders is looking for more holistic means to tackle the factors that keep neighborhoods poor. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is one leading example.
Beginning a decade ago, RWJF convened a Commission to Build a Healthier America to take a deep dive into the impact of socioeconomic conditions on health. The commission’s final 2014 recommendations—in line with RWJF’s expansive strategy under the leadership of longtime CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey—called for greater attention to non-medical factors that affect health and well-being, including community revitalization and support for children early in life.
The commission found lots to like in the work of Purpose Built Communities, a nonprofit whose board chair, Shirley Franklin, was the first African American woman to serve as mayor of Atlanta. “We have been great fans of Purpose Built Communities for some time,” said Abbey Cofsky, managing director of Healthy Communities at RWJF. “With people looking for easy solutions, Purpose Built is what a holistic approach looks like.”
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