Community development in it of its self is the bridge between place and physical health, using neighborhood revitalization as a strategy to improve the health of low-income communities. In our world we measure “health of community” through the reduction of preventable chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes, and obesity to align with the way the world measures the “health of a community. “Which is equivalent to the number of successful local businesses, available food options, and reduction of economic blight in neighborhoods. Interestingly, physical health is only a portion of the puzzle that creates a fully “healthy” community.
“1 in 5 adults live with a mental illness” and “nearly 80% of youth between the ages of 6-17 does not receive mental healthcare (healthcare, 2020). We, as humans, so easily brush off life’s stresses and assume our mental health does not need to be nurtured in the same capacity as our local communities. The only difference is that one is more visible. The idea of mental health is not simply a mental illness nor is it an illness. It is the well-being of your mind where you can realize and cope with normal stresses, work productively, and make contributions to your community. During these unsettling times this task has been hard to achieve. However, if the year 2020 has not taught us anything, it has taught us to evolve our way of thinking. It is time to shift our minds from physical health as the whole definition of a “healthy community” into “upstream” thinking.
“Upstream” social factors, such as neighborhood conditions or household financial well-being, are important determinants of mental health and can influence factors such as emotional resilience, social connectedness, and self-efficacy. This is what gets people out of bed in the morning! Upstream thinking requires the government and local organizations to think proactively rather than reactive. As a state we need to move away from solely fixing disinvested communities to also discovering how it became disinvested to prevent it from happening again. “Upstream factors” also known as, social determinants of health such as neighborhood conditions, working conditions, education, income and wealth, race/ethnicity and racism, and potential causal link – role of stress are all but not inclusive to impacts of our health and reasons why communities are suffering. Every time a person has to take medication to makeup for the fact that they couldn’t afford healthy food, or every time a young person is incarcerated, or a family becomes homeless due to lack of affordable housing we are suffering from the results of downstream thinking.
Local community events such as garage sales, block parties, and pop up shops builds social connectiveness and fosters a sense of belonging. Cleaning debris and cutting unkept yards decrease negative stigmas and reduces shame. Repairing broken mailboxes, window shutters, or fences reduces depression and financial anxiety. Also, this can still be achieved during a covid-19 world. All you need are people who want to make a change.
If you look around Baton Rouge you may have heard or taken part of ways MCRA pushes for holistic healthy neighborhoods. To make sure we have a holistic approach we partner with the local hospital and community neighbors. As previously mentioned the citizens are the experts of their community. Which is why we involve our neighbors in every local community event, affordable housing project, and creative placemaking around their neighborhood.
Through our founding father, Baton Rouge General Mid City, we are able to identify Mid City’s strongest social factors and create resources that directly attacks the root of the issue. By knowing the social factors we are able to build affordable housing for the right price, stop gentrification from occurring, and repair homes for families in need. Also, we strive to educate the community through one-on-one homeownership counseling, financial guidance, and civic associations.
Local Community Events
All things considered, true health is when physical, mental, and social well-being of yourself and the community you live are able to function harmoniously. Many low income and disinvested communities derived through inequities from housing segregation and discrimination, poverty, and lack of access to personal services. We cannot seek a holistically, mentally stable Baton Rouge if we neglect the parts that make up who we are. Community development is another word for neighborhood revitalization, which means you have the power to make a change and we are here to provide that platform for your voice to be heard.
If you are interested in creating covid-friendly projects and need support contact our Community Relations Coordinator.
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The mission of Mid City Redevelopment Alliance is to develop and promote the growth and renewal of Mid City Baton Rouge by attracting new and retaining current residents and businesses.