The Urban Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation designed this challenge grant to encourage communities to delve into the 500 Cities open-access dataset, to design innovative solutions on social factors that influence health, and to guide local organizations on how to effectively use neighborhood-level data. The broader goal is to promote more comprehensive cross-collaborative approaches to foster a broader “Culture of Health” in urban areas.

By sharing resources and expertise, the Connecticut Data Collaborative and the Action Lab will conduct a geospatial analysis that maps Hartford housing conditions with the new 500 Cities dataset, to better understand which neighborhood conditions could be improved to promote a “Culture of Health.” Moreover, the grant will help identify concentrated pockets of disinvestment where more resources could be targeted to improve health conditions of city residents. Also, the Connecticut Data Collaborative’s public education initiative, the CT Data Academy, will provide foundational data literacy skills to empower local organizations on using health and housing data to promote meaningful change.

The joint proposal was one of 10 selected from a large competitive pool of applications submitted by organizations from cities across the United States.

“We seek to understand the social determinants of health contributing to disparate health outcomes across neighborhoods in Hartford,” said Michelle Riordan-Nold, executive director of the Connecticut Data Collaborative. “By partnering with the Action Lab, we will enhance our community engagement efforts and help elevate information to inspire action.”

The Liberal Arts Action Lab, launched in early 2018 by Trinity College and Capital Community College, investigates problems posed by Hartford community partners, with teams of undergraduate students and faculty fellows who conduct semester-long research projects to strengthen the city.

“Involving students in applied research projects like this helps to connect the liberal arts skills and techniques they learn in class to the practical applications in Hartford and the broader world,” said Megan Brown, director of the Liberal Arts Action Lab. The 500 Cities grant will fund research stipends this summer for students to extend research done during the spring 2018 semester.