Equitable community development can foster health and racial equity.

Community development is the work of building healthy places with housing that is affordable, good jobs with fair pay, clean water, and transit services that support wellbeing and foster good health.

Everyone has dreams for themselves and their families, but not everyone has the same opportunities to make these dreams come true: laws, social practices, and their historical legacy have led some communities to have fewer opportunities than others for jobs, education, lending, and housing. Racial disparities in health and community conditions, in particular, persist across the United States. But since people created the policies and practices that shape these conditions, we can reinvent them by working together.

Community Development

Ideally, community development facilitates change that is driven by residents, building on local assets and solutions to meet the community’s needs. Community development that fosters health and equity in neighborhoods and places that historically have been structurally excluded from public and private investment—with residents leading change—is key to improving physical, economic, and social community conditions to enable all residents to reach their best possible health and wellbeing.

This includes developing influential partnerships and shared decisionmaking that supports substantive, long-term collective action and efforts motivating financial investment in communities that need it the most while safeguarding against unintended consequences such as displacement through gentrification.

Community Development Finance

The existing community development finance system is the main driver of capital into communities with low incomes. It requires adequate supply of capital, diverse financial products, and community-led decisionmaking to effectively serve the priorities of communities that historically have experienced a lack of investment, especially communities with low incomes and communities of color.

Featured Initiatives

RWJF funds many initiatives in support of our vision for a Culture of Health. For this area of focus, these initiatives were selected to demonstrate grantmaking that is helping us achieve the greatest impact.  

A daycare teacher playing with a group of young children outside.

Purpose Built Communities

Street view of a row of houses.

Center for Community Investment

Conservation Law Foundation/Healthy Neighborhoods Study

A woman riding a bus with a clipboard on her lap.


Iola, KS - August 1, 2017 - Members of THRIVE Allen County, construction staff, and and community officials discuss plans for a new grocery store in downtown Iola.

Build Healthy Places Network

Community organizers talk while touring a neighborhood.

Third Space Action Lab

Related Content

A mother sitting with young child drinking water in front of fireplace.


Improving Community Water Infrastructure

A $5 million loan from RWJF to Communities Unlimited, a nonprofit community development financial institution, is enabling them to provide loans to water utilities in seven Southern states.