Evaluation of the New York State Healthy Neighborhoods Fund Initiative, Phase 2
Building Healthy Communities
March 23, 2018
Where one lives directly influences one’s health. Research confirms that people who are active and eat well are generally healthier, yet motivating people to do these things is a challenge.
It takes many factors in a community, working in tandem, to help residents make healthy choices. To tackle some of the underlying problems that have affected the health of communities, NYHealth launched the Healthy Neighborhoods Fund initiative to help New York State communities become healthier and more active places. Since 2015, NYHealth has invested $4.5 million in this initiative to support six communities across the State in their efforts to increase access to healthy, affordable food; improve access to safe places where residents can exercise and be active; and connect children and adults to programs that support healthy behaviors. This investment also includes support for an independent evaluation, conducted by New York University (NYU) School of Medicine beginning in 2015, to measure outcomes and changes in the communities. In 2018, NYHealth awarded NYU a second grant to further evaluate the impact of NYHealth’s investment in expanding access to and demand for nutritious food and safe places where residents can be more physically active.
Under this grant, NYU continued to examine the efforts, processes, and changes made to improve access to healthy and affordable food and improve the built environment in each community. To provide a more complete picture of the impact of our Healthy Neighborhoods Fund investment and based on lessons from Phase 1 of the evaluation, NYU added two metrics to the evaluation: (1) social cohesion, defined as community and resident engagement and (2) sustainability, defined as organizational development, collaboration, and coalition building. Public safety was also examined, given the influencing factor it played on whether residents used public spaces. The evaluation looked at the overarching question of how well the initiative succeeded in four general ways: (1) positive improvements in individual-level behavior change; (2) positive improvements in community-level conditions that promote healthy food and physical activity; (3) development of best practice models that can be adopted by other organizations and replicated in other neighborhoods; and (4) development of organizational and staff capacity and the organizational networks to support the sustainability of results. NYU combined all data gathered in a report to tell the story of change in the communities over the period of investment by NYHealth and informed ongoing progress toward community goals.