Richmond one of 8 communities nationwide to win $25,000 health prize

ARTICLE | Sep 21, 2017

The city of Richmond has been selected as one of eight communities to receive the 2017 Culture of Health Prize from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

More than 200 other communities applied for the award, which comes with a $25,000 prize.

“It’s a recognition that Richmond is thinking differently about health, that we really understand that health is not simply a function of health care, whether you see a doctor or not, that there are all these much more complex drivers of health,” said Dr. Danny Avula, director of the Richmond City Health District.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is the largest health foundation in the country. Avula said the organization was impressed with the way Richmond thinks about health, as exemplified by the health district’s work in public housing communities and the city’s attempt to address poverty through the creation of the Office of Community Wealth Building.

The judges also were impressed with the city’s effort to increase food access, its bike and pedestrian infrastructure, and its work in youth development.

“Richmond is becoming a place where regardless of the color of your skin, where you live, or how much you have in the bank, you can enjoy a healthy lifestyle,” Mayor Levar Stoney said in a news release.

It’s not yet clear what the city will do with the $25,000 prize, Avula said. But the monetary award, he added, means less than the recognition Richmond has garnered.

“Having the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation really recognizing Richmond in this way does have implications for other national foundations and funding streams that might look at Richmond in a different way because of this,” he said.

Richmond still has work to do in addressing health within the city, Avula added.

“I don’t want people to mistakenly think that we received this award because we have achieved a culture of health in this community,” he said. “It was much more a recognition that we are thinking and talking about health in different ways and that we have the right partners at the table to approach health differently, but I think, moving forward, there are a couple things that will come into focus for Richmond.”

One of those areas of focus is engaging residents in the decision-making process, he said, as well as encouraging communities to be racially and socioeconomically integrated.

“It’s a commitment to this idea that integrated communities are better for everybody, and that to plan that requires thoughtful investment of capital,” he said.


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