Building Community Capacity

Capacity-building starts with understanding the social determinants of health, or the social and economic conditions that affect our health as individuals and in communities. This is directly tied to the amount and quality of resources in a community, as well as the support offered by policies and those who implement policies. Not every aspect of these social determinants has to rely on policy, however; community strategies and engagement are equally important.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RJWF), America’s largest philanthropic organization devoted solely to health, understands that the healthcare system is not the only system that affects our health. Housing, transportation, workplaces, food, and recreation are all critical components of the built environment, and each community can build its social capacity to improve those components. The Foundation’s Built Environment and Health initiative features a web portal where communities can access tools, resources, case studies, and links to specific programs in healthy communities. Grants are available through RWJF to conduct research, develop model programs, analyze data and policies, enact training programs, build community engagement, and more.

Smart Growth America also offers programs to help people already working with community development and the built environment increase their skills. The Governor’s Institute on Community Design, a sustainable development coalition for developers known as LOCUS, and a project for healthier development patterns called are just a few of the resources available to those looking to raise the standards of community design.

Becoming a Healthy Community Champion through FDOH can help build community capacity, too, through technical assistance aimed at implementing programs and policies. This kind of assistance can help bridge gaps across sectors and grow people’s skills and networks. Check out the application page under our Be Recognized tab, and see who’s already been recognized for 2018.