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Penn Medicine News: Penn Medicine and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Launch Multi-Million Dollar Joint Initiative to Improve Health and Wellbeing in West and Southwest Philadelphia Neighborhoods with Greenspaces, Career Training, and Community Environmental Grants

From Penn Medicine News: The Penn Urban Health Lab, along with 13 community and faith-based organizations, will launch Deeply Rooted, a community-driven program to promote health equity and environmental justice in Black and brown neighborhoods in West and Southwest Philadelphia. Named Deeply Rooted to convey the depth, strength, and scope of the work, this initiative will increase greenspace through greening of over 1,000 vacant lots, planting more than 1,000 trees and building miniparks designed by the community. In addition, it will provide community residents and organizations with mini-grants to promote environmental justice initiatives and support nature-based career development. Penn Medicine and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s (CHOP) Healthier Together Initiative are the initial funders for Deeply Rooted, while the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society serves as the lead strategic greenspace implementation partner. The collaborative aims to reverse the effects of structural racism on neighborhood environments which have led to increased violent crime, worsened public health, and deepened health inequities in Black and brown Philadelphia neighborhoods. The first year of the program will focus on four local communities – Cobbs Creek, Haddington, Kingsessing, and Mill Creek – which were selected based on data related to the rates of gun violence, health outcomes, the opportunity to increase tree canopy, and the prevalence of vacant land. “Every time we step out of our homes to go to work or school, the environment around us is having an impact on our health,” said Eugenia South, MD, MSHP, an assistant professor of Emergency Medicine and faculty director of the Urban Health Lab. “Investment in Black communities, that is directed by community leaders, to create healthy and safe neighborhoods environments is essential to reversing longstanding health inequities.” The collaborative draws upon South’s research on the impact of vacant lots, blighted houses, and lack of trees and other greenspaces on rates of violence and poor health outcomes in predominantly Black and brown neighborhoods. Her work illustrates the profound toll of violence on communities, where residents experience increased rates of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and heart disease compared to their White counterparts. Recently, South and Penn colleagues embarked on a wide-ranging research effort, spanning 60 predominantly Black neighborhoods in Philadelphia, to measure interventions addressing both environmental and economic injustices on health and well-being. That project is supported by a nearly $10 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. Read more at Penn Medicine News.