Investing In Social Determinants Of Health: Why CDFIs And Health Systems Are Natural Partners

Just Economy Conference – May 14, 2021


Historical disinvestment in social determinants of health have prevented low-income communities from having fair opportunities for economic, physical and emotional health. The CDC has identified key factors that contribute to increased health risk, including toxic stress from discrimination; inequitable access to healthcare and utilization; occupational hazards of being an essential worker; educational, income and wealth gaps; and inequities in housing.

That is why health systems are addressing issues that have not traditionally been considered medically relevant, like housing, early childhood education and access to healthy foods. They are doing so in partnership with CDFIs, the financial ecosystem dedicated to serving low-income communities. While this is a significant improvement in recognizing the interconnectedness of community health and community finance, many systemic challenges remain.

In this session, we discuss how health systems and CDFIs are natural partners in addressing social determinants of health. We will interrogate the systemic bias that has characterized both mainstream finance and healthcare, and provide examples of efforts to build the broader ecosystem beyond discrete projects to improve community health.

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Redlining and Neighborhood Health

Before the pandemic devastated minority communities, banks and government officials starved them of capital.

Lower-income and minority neighborhoods that were intentionally cut off from lending and investment decades ago today suffer not only from reduced wealth and greater poverty, but from lower life expectancy and higher prevalence of chronic diseases that are risk factors for poor outcomes from COVID-19, a new study shows.

The new study, from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) with researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health and the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab, compared 1930’s maps of government-sanctioned lending discrimination zones with current census and public health data.

Table of Content

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Redlining, the HOLC Maps and Segregation
  • Segregation, Public Health and COVID-19
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion and Policy Recommendations
  • Citations
  • Appendix

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