WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today announced that the City of Akron and the City of Canton, respectively, were selected to participate in the new “Invest Health” initiative, a collaborative program launched by Reinvestment Fund and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Invest Health targets mid-sized cities with populations between 50,000 and 400,000 to help develop new strategies to improve health outcomes, remove barriers to care, and leverage private-public investments in health. Mid-size American cities face some of the nation’s deepest challenges with entrenched poverty, poor health, and a lack of investment.
“Invest Health will help Akron and Canton develop new strategies to improve public health outcomes in our state while building relationships with similar communities across the country to learn best practices for attracting investment and improving our neighborhoods,” said Brown. “This award and designation will go a long way in building stronger, healthier communities in northeast Ohio.”
As two of the 50 Invest Health cities chosen from more than 180 applicants, Akron and Canton will each receive $60,000 grants to help improve opportunities for residents to live healthy lives by addressing factors that drive health such as access to safe and affordable housing, places to play and exercise, and quality jobs. Youngstown was also selected to participate.
Over the next 18 months, leaders from Akron and Canton will join other Invest Health teams in sharing best practices and receiving technical assistance from expert advisors and coaches, along with engaging with other local stakeholders to encourage knowledge sharing.
Akron’s Invest Health team plans to take aim at obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and cancer by creating a more walkable neighborhood with attractive destinations. Potential opportunities include: retail and coffee shops, adult primary care, collaborative space for social and educational programming surrounding healthy lifestyles and food preparation, community gardening, and educational and skill building resources.
Canton’s Invest Health has proposed establishing a Head Start program to encourage kindergarten readiness. This program would offer classroom curriculum along with medical and dental care, immunization, and obesity interventions for the child and the family. The Invest Health plan also proposes to create educational and training opportunities for adults in the southeast quadrant. This initiative would encourage employment and insurance benefits for individuals entrenched in poverty. Finally, the Invest Health plan will also encourage a comprehensive fair housing plan and will expand on a Stark Fresh initiative that established a community garden and explore providing a grocery store that offers fresh food and nutrition options.