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How to Build Healthy and Prosperous Communities

Written by Colby Dailey, MPP and Douglas Jutte, MD, MPH on May 1, 2018

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What underlies our emerging movement for healthier families and communities?

July 15, 2018 Update:
Thank you for your interest. Our survey is now closed and we are in the processing of integrating the feedback we received. This fall we plan to release an updated set of Principles. If you’re not yet on our mailing list, click here to sign up, and you will be included in future updates. You can also download a PDF of the consultation draft as presented this spring.

Partnership is hard. With different cultures, unique jargon, and varied priorities and objectives, forming working relationships across sectors to advance common goals takes time and commitment. We started asking: Where is the starting point for collaboration? What is the pathway? Are there foundational values that help pave the way for effective solutions for building healthy and prosperous communities?

Since our launch four years ago, we’ve seen that more organizations have recognized the connection between health and the “upstream social determinants of health” – factors such as affordable housing, good paying jobs, and quality education. This growing understanding across sectors has spurred new conversations among organizations that rarely talked to each other just a few years ago.

Growing Momentum

Through our work at the Build Healthy Places Network, we get to see how community development organizations, public health organizations, banks, healthcare systems and hospitals, and impact investors are coming together in new ways. Although there may be differences in terms and tactics, there really is a growing cross-sector movement with underlying shared goals to build healthy and prosperous communities.

We see it as our job, as the national center bridging community development and health, to help articulate these shared goals and lift up best practices to speed and spread solutions. And so, working with our National Advisory Council, we’ve drafted these Principles for Building Healthy and Prosperous Communities in hopes of doing just that.

The Principles below are the consultation draft, meant to start the conversation and get feedback from those of you leading this hard work on the ground. And so, we’d like to hear from you about where we got it right, what you would add or change, and whether or not you would adopt them for your own organization. Our plan is to collect feedback this spring and then to launch a revised and final set in the fall.

Our hope is that, in the end, we have a shared set of grounding Principles that serves as both an aspirational and a practical guide, reflecting a common purpose for the many individuals and organizations who in multiple sectors and places are working to build communities where all people can live rewarding and healthy lives.

The Lay of the Land

These Principles are based on a scan of over 30 national organizations that are working to create healthier communities. We synthesized their value statements, identifying the common themes and beliefs championed by organizations working with people on the ground.

With the advice and input of our National Advisory Council, we fine-tuned the direction, importance, and clarity of each Principle to ensure, as much as possible, that they reflect the challenges and opportunities facing forward-thinking organizations working with communities across the United States. Now we need your input:

Principles for Building Healthy and Prosperous Communities [abbreviated]

Each Principle has a title, description, and action points. We invite you to review the full set of Principles in our SurveyMonkey and provide your input.

Principle 1: Engage the community
Interventions should be conducted with a community, rather than for a community. Read more here…

Principle 2: Embed equity as both process and desired outcome
Systematically addressing equity in both process and desired outcomes in policy, funding, and programs will help narrow gaps among groups in every community, whether rural, suburban, or urban. Read more…

Principle 3: Intentionally work across sectors
To be successful, work must effectively engage multiple sectors to improve the health and wellbeing of families and communities. Read more…

Principle 4: Aim to bolster economic mobility and prosperity
From rural communities to big cities, many households struggle with tough financial trade-offs that affect their chance to live fulfilling and healthy lives; gaps in health and wealth inhibit individuals’ and communities’ economic growth. Read more…

Principle 5: Seek to transform communities
Quick fixes and one-off projects will not lead to sustained improvements in resource-poor, low-income communities. Read more…

Principle 6: Commit over the long term
Poverty and poor health are enduring problems, requiring a long-term commitment among funders, whether government, community, and/or business. Improving health and prosperity is unlikely to be achieved through short term initiatives. Read more…

Consultation Draft: We Need You

Do these Principles capture the values and varied experiences that you and your sector uphold? Would you adopt them in your own work or within your organization? Please fill out our survey between now and June 29.

July 15, 2018 Update:
Our survey is now closed and we are in the processing of integrating the feedback we received. Sign up for our newsletter for future updates. You can also download a PDF of the consultation draft as presented this spring.

If you have any questions or comments, we’re here– contact us at

Colby Dailey, MPP Colby Dailey is the Managing Director of Build Healthy Places Network. She is on the National Advisory Committee for RWJF’s Culture of Health Prize, and is an officer of the Board of the Northern California Community Loan Fund. Her background and expertise spans community development and social impact investing policy development. She received her Masters in Public Policy from U.C. Berkeley and lives in San Francisco with her family. Douglas Jutte, MD, MPH Douglas Jutte, MD, MPH is Executive Director of the Build Healthy Places Network. Dr. Jutte has been a leader in the Federal Reserve Bank and RWJ Foundation’s Healthy Communities Initiative. He is also a pediatrician, professor and population health researcher at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health where he teaches in the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical program. Dr. Jutte graduated from Cornell University and received an MD from Harvard Medical School and a master’s degree in public health from UC Berkeley. He completed his pediatric residency at Stanford University and a post-doctoral fellowship at UCSF through the RWJF Health & Society Scholars program. His clinical work has been in low-income community clinics and as a hospitalist caring for newborn infants.