Under a sub-award from a National Institutes of Health grant to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, the VCU Center on Society and Health (formerly the Center on Human Needs) was funded in 2010 to study the role of place in explaining health disparities.
Studies were conducted in eight communities throughout the United States: Alameda County (Oakland), CA; Baltimore, MD; Bernalillo County (Albuquerque), NM; Boston, MA; Cook County (Chicago), IL; New Orleans, LA; San Joaquin Valley, CA; and South Delta, MS. The communities were each involved with the Place Matters project – an initiative of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies intended to improve health by addressing social conditions that lead to poor health. Teams within each community — representing public health departments, civic organizations, and other local change agents — played a key role in setting the parameters for the research and use the reports as tools to pursue policy solutions in their community.
Using statistical relationships and geospatial information system mapping, the Center produced a series of reports examining the linkages between local health and living conditions, focusing on the demographic, social and economic conditions identified by each community. In addition to the community partners in each area, the project was conducted in collaboration with the Virginia Network for Geospatial Health Research.