Baltimore is among nine jurisdictions across the nation to be chosen by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to receive its 2023 Culture of Health Prize.
The Prize celebrates communities across the country where residents and organizations are collaborating to build solutions to barriers that have created unequal opportunities for health and wellbeing. With the Prize, RWJF seeks to inspire others to take action and create a healthier future for everyone’s children and grandchildren.
Since partnership within communities is at the heart of the Prize, it is awarded to whole cities, towns, tribes, reservations and counties. The 2023 Prize winners, which will each receive $250,000, are Austin, Texas; Baltimore, Maryland; Detroit, Michigan; Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Reservation; Houston, Texas; Los Angeles County, California; Ramsey County, Minnesota; Tacoma, Washington; and Zuni Pueblo.
“The work of our current and past Prize winners highlights the real staying power of community-born solutions, and their success inspires greater collaboration across public and private sectors,” said Dr. Julie Morita, RWJF executive vice president. “This year’s winners demonstrate what’s possible when we work in partnership and ensure that community members with lived experience take the lead to identify and dismantle barriers to health and wellbeing.”
Baltimore was chosen for this year’s cohort because it is the first U.S. city to successfully move policy forward that supports mental health through trauma-informed care, driving a cultural shift toward a trauma-responsive government that centers hope and healing. Mandating training for thousands of city employees, Healing City Baltimore’s partnership has already led to the elimination of truancy and zero-tolerance drug policies in the city’s library system. Before the training, if someone entered the library and appeared to be under the influence, they would be kicked out of the library and written up. Now they are getting help and as a result, Baltimore has become a model for similar efforts beginning in Cincinnati and Philadelphia.
Here’s more about the other nominees:
Detroit, Michigan: Demonstrating a deep commitment to address structural racism has inspired change in Detroit that cuts across race, ZIP codes, and age groups. Detroit’s work exemplifies the strength that comes from partnerships to create more comprehensive solutions to its community’s challenges. The Detroit Association of Black Organizations, a federation of more than 130 Black and non-Black organizations, has worked together with many partners across Detroit to build community unity that empowers residents with access to a wide range of resources, services, and education—including high blood pressure screening, after-school programs, and suicide prevention efforts—and advocates for community needs through the media.
Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Reservation: Members of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa have built collaborative strategies that bring back traditional ways of living that have been with them forever but were dormant or taken away because of colonial and racist oppression. For example, after advocating for the legalization of their language, traditional games, and other cultural practices, the band has revitalized the Ojibwe way of life throughout the community. Members developed a robust food system based on cultural practices; and successfully brought about public health-driven policies and programs related to mitigating smoking, youth detention, and incarceration.
Houston, Texas: Houston is a city known for its foodie culture, but historical redlining and structural racism means many neighborhoods lack healthy food. Black-led organizations from different communities are working to change that by using urban farming, farmer’s markets, and corner stores to make healthy foods available to their communities and stimulate economic growth. For example, the Community Health Equity Network, a collective effort of interconnected leaders, communities, and organizations, is increasing access to nutritious foods in Houston’s historically Black and Latino neighborhoods. The partnership in Houston is committed to training community members in advocacy so that they can continue to influence local policy and lead needed solutions to the challenges their communities are facing.
Los Angeles County, California: In Los Angeles, California, a movement for Black families is leading the county toward a Culture of Health that centers joy and justice by addressing structural racism at the root of Black maternal health disparities. Because of this work, over 500 Black individuals who have given birth and their families in Los Angeles have received free doula support, and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is shifting toward antiracism in culture and policies. The Los Angeles County African American Infant and Maternal Mortality Prevention Initiative’s extraordinary efforts are demonstrating the power of what is possible when partners share a vision for liberation and an understanding that systems of care—not Black families—need to change to address structural racism. Partners share a vision for ending disparities in Black maternal and infant mortality by upholding communities that are best positioned to support families that give birth.
Ramsey County, Minnesota: Located in the heart of Saint Paul’s Twin Cities region, Ramsey County is home to communities that are proactive in building their own future to heal the wrongs of the past. The strong foundation of on-the-ground community partnerships was built out of a desire to regain Kujichagulia (self-determination). Kujichagulia 2.0 is a unique effort between the community-based nonprofit Cultural Wellness Center, Ramsey County, and the Black Community Commission on Health. Making Black community members integral to county decision-making—while keeping the responsibility to policymakers—is central to their goal of eliminating systematized racist practices related to health, housing, education, career opportunities, and other issues that disproportionately affect the Black community.
Tacoma, Washington: In downtown Tacoma, you’ll see a large and colorful mural that depicts the details of Resolution 40622, Tacoma’s declaration to become an antiracist city. Partners in the Tacoma Anchor Network share a vision that everyone is treated with fairness and worthiness, that everyone has what they need to make ends meet, and that young people in the city have a real shot at their best future. Tacoma is tackling economic inequity through innovative, citywide approaches focused on supporting people of color and removing barriers. For example, Tacoma’s Equity Index allows the city and partners to quantify, and map needs and then distribute resources equitably.
Zuni Pueblo: For Zuni Pueblo, fostering a Culture of Health centers on reclaiming sovereignty by reintroducing centuries-old farming practices and working across generations to preserve language and cultural practices. Because partners have focused their work on language and culture reclamation, they have been able to uplift culture as an avenue for achieving community health. At the center of it all is Zuni’s deeply unifying approach. The Zuni Youth Enrichment Project collectively addresses issues such as food sovereignty, community education, cultural preservation, sustainable agriculture and gardening, and water conservation. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, partners worked together with the Zuni Agricultural Committee to create and distribute gardening and rain harvesting kits to over 500 families, reintroducing traditional gardening practices and providing critical resources.
ABOUT THE ROBERT WOOD JOHNSON FOUNDATION
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is committed to improving health and health equity in the United States. In partnership with others, it is working to develop a Culture of Health rooted in equity that provides every individual with a fair and just opportunity to thrive, no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they have. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org.
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