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Reinvestment Fund and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Name Buffalo One of 50 Invest Health Cities

Buffalo to join innovative, national program to improve health in low-income neighborhoods

The City of Buffalo has been selected by Reinvestment Fund and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to take part in the new Invest Health initiative. Invest Health is aimed at transforming how leaders from mid-size American cities work together to help low-income communities thrive, with specific attention to community features that drive health such as access to safe and affordable housing, places to play and exercise, and quality jobs.

Buffalo was selected from more than 180 teams from 170 communities that applied to the initiative. Cities with populations between 50,000 and 400,000 were asked to form five-member teams including representatives from the public sector, community development, and an anchor institution, preferably academic or health-related. The Buffalo team comprises representatives from the City of Buffalo, Erie County Medical Center, the Buffalo Urban Development Corporation, University at Buffalo, NeuWater Associates and the P2 Collaborative, and will develop a sustainable food system business with job training, community development and healthy living services at the core of the work.

“The Erie County Medical Center views the Invest Health program as a natural fit for our efforts to be a great neighbor on Buffalo’s East Side,” said Thomas J. Quatroche, Jr., PhD, President & CEO of ECMC.  “The approach taken by the leadership team recognizes that health is impacted by a wide variety of factors. Supporting community development, job training and job creation as well as other issues that do not fall within traditional definitions of health care is a more effective approach to driving improvements in population health. The multi-sector partners on the Invest Health leadership team will drive great improvements in this community.”

Mid-size American cities face some of the nation’s deepest challenges with entrenched poverty, poor health, and a lack of investment. But they also offer fertile ground for strategies that improve health and have the potential to boost local economies. The program has the potential to fundamentally transform the way Buffalo improves opportunities to live healthy lives by addressing the drivers of health including jobs, housing, education, community safety and environmental conditions.

“With a long history in community development finance, we are excited to help create a pipeline to channel capital into low-income communities through public and private investments,” said Amanda High, Chief of Strategic Initiatives at Reinvestment Fund. “Our goal is to transform how cities approach tough challenges, share lessons learned and spur creative collaboration.”

“Public officials, community developers, and many others have been working in low-income neighborhoods for years, but they haven’t always worked together,” said Donald Schwarz, MD, MPH, MBA, RWJF Vice President, Program. “Invest Health aims to align their work and help neighborhoods thrive by intentionally incorporating health into community development.”

Buffalo’s projects will explore a broad range of ideas from developing hydroponics, farmers markets and aquaponics to food service jobs, community development and healthy living programs. Examples include developing a farmers market for local residents and the creation of a healthy foods production and distribution hub that will create jobs and make affordable, healthy foods available for residents throughout the City of Buffalo.  Project teams will travel to Philadelphia for a kick-off meeting on June 7th and will meet regularly to share lessons learned throughout the 18-month project.  A full list of awardees and more information is available at www.investhealth.org.



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