HealthRacial Equity

Building healthy and equitable communities in Grand Rapids, Michigan


All children deserve to grow up in communities where they can live, learn and play – safely and without fear. They deserve to trust the institutions around them and feel confident about their futures.

Unfortunately, due to systemic racism, not all children currently have the same opportunities to thrive.

“Racism actually, literally, makes us sick,” said Dr. Marijata C. Daniel-Echols, a WKKF program officer, who notes that when she talks about health, she refers to our full selves: heart, body and mind.

Last month, Dr. Daniel-Echols served as the keynote speaker for the Grand Rapids Neighborhood Summit at Grand Valley State University.

The theme of the Summit was “Building Equitable and Healthy Communities,” with residents exploring how to educate themselves and act within their spheres of influence to bring about change and make their communities more equitable places of opportunity. They can do this by influencing the conditions in which people are born, grow, work and live, including housing, voting, transportation, participatory budgeting and other factors.

A new report from the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy and Just Solutions, created with WKKF support, called Health Equity In Grand Rapids’ ‘Neighborhoods of Focus’ Social Determinants of Health Report, investigates how access to health-promoting resources like education, transportation and home ownership are unevenly distributed within 17 census tracts across the city.

Public and private partners in the city are utilizing the report and working together to improve access to the social determinants of health for all residents of the city.

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