Over the past year, 11 grantees across the state of Rhode Island began work to reduce health disparities through the creation of Health Equity Zones (HEZ). A HEZ is a geographic area designed to achieve health equity through community-based strategies. Each of the 11 HEZ projects in Rhode Island is headed by local organizations that collaborate with the Rhode Island Department of Health and The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, as well as community planners, education systems, law enforcement and other municipalities to develop and carry out HEZ work plans.
The Hunger Center has been working with HEZ groups in Rhode Island to support efforts aimed at improving community food access and nutrition. Some of the plans for improvement include increasing the redemption of SNAP and WIC benefits at farmers’ markets, and working with small grocery stores to expand the availability of nutritious foods. In 2015, staff from the Hunger Center worked with HEZ food access groups in North Providence, Newport, South County, and Woonsocket. The Hunger Center will also begin work with the Pawtucket/Central Falls HEZ this summer.
Last year, all HEZ grantees conducted community needs assessments and developed work plans. The implementation of these work plans will begin this year and continue over the next three years with the goal of moving Rhode Island towards health equity.
For more information about HEZ projects and grantees in Rhode Island, visit the Rhode Island Department of Health’s website here!