Natural Partners: Community Development and Community Health







Quick links:

MAPC’s public health team is excited to announce the release of the Community Investment Tax Credit (CITC) Health Impact Assessment (HIA), a groundbreaking report prepared in partnership with Health Resources in Action and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health that links the fields of community development and health together.

The catalyst for this report was the CITC program: an innovative piece of legislation that awards state-certified Community Development Corporations (CDCs) with tax credits that they can then use to attract additional investment to support their activities. This private sector investment will boost the CDCs’ community development efforts, and as a consequence, improve the health of the individuals and families in those communities.

This connection of the CITC program with health, however, was not explicit until the CITC Health Impact Assessment report. This linkage is vital, as this is only the first example of a partnership that could benefit both fields.

To public health practitioners, it was clear that increased support for CDC activities could have an important positive impact on public health. We have long known that the homes we live in, the food we eat, and the other people around us—the stuff of our everyday lives—play a critical role in determining our health and wellbeing throughout our lives, sometimes also dictating how we die. This “stuff,” these pieces that form the world we experience on a daily basis, lies at the heart of the work that the community development field engages in. Although it only just being formally recognized, community development and public health are inextricably linked.

For example, when provided with access to affordable housing, low-and-moderate income community members can afford basic necessities such as healthy food, healthcare, and education, which can improve their mental and physical health. These are exactly the kinds of activities that the Community Investment Tax Credit (CITC) program aims to support. Yet the connection to public health was not formally recognized in the CITC program.

Although the two fields are natural allies, they have only barely begun recognizing each other as potential partners to tackle these issues together. That is why linking health into the Community Investment Tax Credit Program (CITC) and community development more broadly is so important.

By formally linking these two fields together for the first time, this Health Impact Assessment forms the crucial first step to building a partnership between two fields working on overlapping issues separately for decades.

Formally recognizing these links and forging these natural partnerships will stimulate action that is not only groundbreaking but also truly central to the success of public health efforts to improve the quality of life of residents, especially those that are most vulnerable, throughout the Commonwealth and the rest of the country.

Noemie Sportiche, Public Health Research Analyst