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National Leaders Agree: Now Is the Time for Sectors to Join Forces to Improve Health

In a new video, national leaders share why they take on the challenge of joining forces across sectors to improve low-income communities.


Our vision at the Build Healthy Places Network is that all communities should offer people the opportunity to live healthy, rewarding lives. To do that, we need to look more broadly at how health and community interact.

We take our inspiration from national leaders. Those like former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health Howard Koh, who believes work at the intersection of community development and health is the only way forward.

“There’s a wonderful saying that a friend taught me,” Koh told us. “It’s not just about the goldfish, but about the water.”

We couldn’t agree more. Place matters. And context matters. We wanted to know how Koh and leaders like him make the connection between place and health. So we took our video cameras on the road to talk about the necessity of cross-sector partnerships, as well as the hurdles and rewards.

Part of the struggle in the past has been that we’re all working in silos.

“We’re trying to reclaim a healthy environment for everyone,” former mayor of Atlanta Shirley Franklin told us. “There are people in lots of different sectors trying to do that, but especially in the community development field and especially in the health field.”

Franklin is now executive board chair at Purpose Built Communities in Atlanta, where she helps leaders around the country use the model developed in the East Lake community to build healthy, sustainable neighborhoods for everyone. The community there took a holistic approach to community development, combining mixed-income housing with needed services and resources.

In communities like these, despite the magnitude of differences, and despite potential barriers to working together, people are doing it—from Atlanta to Oakland and everywhere in between.

Listen in as leaders in the fields of public health and community development talk about why they take on the challenge of joining forces across sectors. “Part of the struggle in the past has been that we’re working in silos,” said Sister Lillian Murphy, former CEO of Mercy Housing.  “We’re all working toward the same thing here. Let’s figure out how to do this together.”

Thank you to these leaders who shared their insights for this video. And thank you for the work that you and all of our colleagues across these fields do every day to improve low-income communities and the lives of the people who live in them.

About the Author

Doug Jutte

Doug Jutte is the executive director of the Build Healthy Places Network.