Using the framework and values promoted in the Black Health Bill of Rights, the Council on Black Health works alongside partners to create socially connected and healthy places that uplift health, dignity, equity, and belonging in Black communities. We engage neighborhood leaders and identify opportunities to strengthen social connection with changes to systems, policies, or public spaces in communities.
Meaningful social connections are a basic human need, and strong social connections can boost a person’s survival by 50% and enhance their quality of life. Well-designed and socially connected communities, with spaces and conditions that bring people together and create a sense of belonging, improve the health and well-being of residents. In turn, people who live in these communities feel safe, trust one another, and have better mental, physical, and emotional health outcomes.
Yet, Black communities throughout the country face a long history of gentrification, racial exclusion, segregation, and discriminatory policies that have created great harm. Black people who already experience other health disparities, marginalization, othering, and oppression become at risk of social isolation and loneliness through the erosion of social cohesion. Examples of how systematic racism, rooted in community design, has harmed Black communities include:
Taking steps to address social isolation must happen at the system and community levels and not be treated as a personal issue. Alongside our partners, we provide resources to neighborhoods to reclaim their power and shape their community’s future. By creating socially connected communities, we not only create places for people to connect meaningfully; we improve residents’ health outcomes.
This project introduced neighborhood teams to the Council on Black Health’s Black Health Bill of Rights and Healthy Places by Design’s Socially Connected Communities: Solutions to Social Isolation. Neighborhood teams developed plans to enhance social connections within communities through a deliberate focus on inclusive, healthy spaces designed to bring residents together while honoring the history and unique strengths of the community. Each team received a personalized action plan and suggestions for the next steps. The Council is working to identify additional opportunities to provide support.
Our Initiatives and Impact
Supporting Black Health Through Socially Connected Communities
In Charlotte, North Carolina, three predominantly Black neighborhoods facing the pressures of gentrification began building social connection in ways that reclaim power and self-efficacy. Working alongside Healthy Places by Design, we co-created a series of learning sessions with the goal of creating safer places for people to connect. We worked with community leaders from Grier Heights, Hidden Valley, and Washington Heights neighborhoods. These learning sessions built trust, increased knowledge, and ensured local experience, wisdom, and resources were shared.
In each neighborhood, three to four people worked as a team to identify strategies for building social cohesion, deciding how they wanted to create inclusive, healthy community spaces that bring people together while honoring their community’s history and unique strengths. Community leaders voiced concerns and pressures at each planning session, including gentrification and displacement, housing costs, transportation issues, and more.
Using the Black Health Bill of Rights framework, community leaders expressed a strong sense of pride in the history of their neighborhoods that served as a foundation for cultivating a healthy community identity. From an asset-based approach and with technical assistance from Healthy Places by Design and the Council, each team developed a plan to foster social connection in their community, anchored around reviving places of historical significance and telling inspiring stories of success and resilience. In doing so, these neighborhoods are reclaiming their narratives and redefining the legacies of their communities.
Leaders in each community developed plans to:
Ultimately, as a result of this collaboration, neighborhood leaders in Charlotte were able to build strong connections and solidarity within their communities, supporting the health of residents. Using their collective voice and influence amid broader forces of change, neighborhood leaders enhanced social cohesion, created a clear vision, and strengthened their communities for all residents.