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  • Bruce Baker

The Long Branch Health Enterprise Zone Concept

The goal of the Long Branch Health Enterprise Zone is to reduce health disparities in the Long Branch/Takoma Park community. This community has a diverse population with significant disparities in income and opportunity. The Health Enterprise Zone is modeled after other successful place based initiatives for improving community health and well being. The Harlem Children’s Zone is one example. Place based initiatives that focus local people, organizations, and resources to address community problems in a holistic way can achieve results that no single program operating in isolation can achieve on its own. This is because place based initiatives do three things that individual programs have difficulty doing. First, it can create collaborations, establish information exchanges, and facilitate actions that can remove the obstacles that prevent individual programs from succeeding. Second, it builds and taps into the local social networks that have been shown to be essential to creating real and substantial changes in people’s behavior and attitudes. Third, it leverages and expands the resources available to the community, which is particularly important to historically under resourced communities and disadvantaged populations.

The Long Branch HEZ is a collaboration with deep roots in the community. All coalition members in this process share a commitment to a shared vision (below), measuring results, and empowering community members.

Vision: Create a collaboration that involves multi-sectoral participation and coordination of services, programs, enterprises and projects to create healthy thriving communities that empower community members to address social conditions, such as housing, employment, opportunity, and social equality, build social connections, improve health behaviors, and access health care. This will produce measurable improvements in population health, patient experience, and reduced health care system costs.

Measurement: The HEZ will select and measure specific health outcomes and also program inputs, outputs, and other variables that may affect the health outcomes. This will include developing a data base of residents using multiple health and social services to analyze risks and more effectively target interventions.

Empowerment: The Long Branch HEZ will engage residents to participate in projects and identify with HEZ, possibly with a membership card to access benefits and track utilization. Community inputs will guide the selection and assessment of program interventions.

Possible interventions include programs that

  • Create access to recreational facilities/activities for low-income families

  • Work with the Farmer’s Market and local businesses to increase access to and the use of nutritious food

  • Engage Fire and Rescue service to help identify high-risk neighborhoods and apartment buildings, along with the frequency and types of calls

  • Health education and screening targeting specific subpopulations and high-need locations

  • Connect residents to economic empowerment circles that help vulnerable populations to access, employment, training, opportunities, and mutual support.

The collaboration will incubate and develop these and other innovative community projects that address health disparities and quality of life within its community and model effective collaborative governance and community engagement to develop and achieve common goals.

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