What is a health equity zone?

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) established Health Equity Zones (HEZs) in 2015 to improve community health in areas that need it most.  HEZs are collaboratives of residents, community organizations, health professionals, and others who come together to address the root causes of health disparities. The HEZs work to ensure every neighborhood has a fair and just opportunity to be healthier. This work requires removing obstacles to health such as poverty, discrimination, racism, and their consequences, including insufficient access to good jobs with fair pay, quality education, affordable housing, safe environments, and healthcare.

Our Community Building Team.

Why “Central Providence”?

The Central Providence Health Equity Zone is an extension of the Olneyville Health Equity Zone. The Olneyville HEZ was built on a foundation of more than a thousand hours of resident interviews, dozens of community events, and countless organizational meetings.

In 2019, we expanded our target area to include nearby neighborhoods (Hartford, Valley, and Federal Hill) with similar characteristics but fewer community organizations to do the work. With this expansion, we renamed ourselves the “Central Providence” HEZ (CP-HEZ). To ensure that our work remains rooted in community needs, we conducted a needs assessment in our new neighborhoods in 2019 and 2020.

A Focus on Economic Opportunity

The Rhode Island Department of Health identifies five domains that affect health equity: 1) Integrated Healthcare; 2) Community Resiliency; 3) Physical Environment; 4) Socioeconomics; and 5) Community Trauma. While many of these domains overlap, our HEZ is particularly focused on the Socioeconomic domain.

Life expectancy for residents in Central Providence neighborhoods is about 9 years less than for residents from more socioeconomically advantaged neighborhoods in Providence. Fifty percent of the factors that determine health have to do with economic and social conditions. Empirical research clearly shows that improving these conditions improves the health of Central Providence residents. When our neighbors are healthier, they will use less high-cost healthcare services. The savings realized by the healthcare system have the potential to be reinvested in actions that promote health.

Health Equity Projects

Health equity zones are community-based infrastructure systems designed for public health investments in neighborhoods without local health departments. Within this construct, our HEZ has supported a wide variety of health equity initiatives since our inception in 2015. While we have narrowed our focus to address economic opportunity, we continue to act as a resource and the convening entity for a wide variety of public health projects. Click here to watch a video about what a day in the life of a CP-HEZ Community Health Worker is like!

Several of our most recent initiatives are:

Climate Resiliency: Neighborhood surveys indicated that most households were unprepared for a flood or natural disaster.  In response, ONE|NB, the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council, and Steer Media teamed up to create this emergency preparedness film that was showcased at schools and local community events.

Community Health Workers: Our Community Health Worker Registered Apprenticeship initiative has prepared six individuals to assist others in their community to overcome barriers to health.  CHWs receive 144 hours of free education and on-the-job training.

21st Century Community Learning Center: ONE|NB and Brown University’s Swearer Center have come together to offer free after-school and school-vacation programming at Olneyville’s William D’Abate Elementary School.

Our Partners Make This Possible

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