Rhode Island Department of Health Creates Health Equity Zones to Reduce Disparities

March 12, 2015|3:21 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

In 2015, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDPH) will begin to distribute $2.15 million in CDC funding through grants for targeted interventions in new “health equity zones.” RIDPH will award grants to 11 local governments and non-profits, helping to create programs in areas with high rates of obesity, chronic illness, and other negative health outcomes and reduce health disparities and improve overall public health in the state.  

Potential RIDPH health equity zones are areas where collaborative initiatives can reduce rates of chronic disease, injury, and other public health issues and promote healthy lifestyles and choices. They are defined as “contiguous geographic areas that are small enough for the program to have a significant impact on improving health outcomes, reducing health disparities and improving the social and environmental conditions of the neighborhood, yet large enough to impact a significant number of people.”  

Health equity zone grants were awarded to a diverse group of public health stakeholders, including: 

  • City of Providence Healthy Communities Office
  • Olneyville Housing Corporation
  • Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island
  • Providence Children and Youth Cabinet
  • Thundermist Health Centers in Woonsocket and West Warwick
  • The North Providence School Department
  • South County Hospital
  • Newport Women's Resource Center
  • Local Initiatives Support Corporation in Pawtucket and Central Falls
  • The Town of Bristol 

RIDPH hopes to address health equity as a community-wide effort by collaborating with and building relationships with local businesses, law enforcement, community planners, and other entities whose work contributes to the social determinants of health. Some of the health equity zone grants will go to programs like parent education to prevent negative birth outcomes, diabetes prevention programs that focus on lifestyle factors, and health screenings. Other grants will target macro-level policy changes related to improving access to public transportation, reducing tobacco use, improving access to nutritious food, and increasing physical activity in schools. 

“Health is not possible without community,” says Rhode Island state health official Michael Fine. “Health equity zones give communities the resources they need to focus on creating collaborations and building health through relationships.” 

For more information, see the press release from the Rhode Island Department of Health.