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National Planning Grant to Increase Health Equity

YouthBuild, IDEAS xLab and The Special Project Receive National Planning Grant to Address Health Equity in Louisville, Kentucky’s Smoketown Neighborhood

The Creative Innovation Zone, a partnership between YouthBuild Louisville and IDEAS xLab originally funded by ArtPlace America, together with The Special Project, announced today that it received $45,000 planning grant from the Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts. The grant provides funding and other support for a health impact assessment process to develop a “Cultural Blueprint for Health” -- an evidence-based action plan for integrating artist innovation into community health in order to address disparities in health outcomes with the goal of increasing family and social support and community safety.

“Even though we are 50 feet across Broadway from the highest concentration of hospital, health and physician services in the state of Kentucky, it is a statistical fact that if you were born or live in Smoketown, Kentucky's oldest African American neighborhood, your life expectancy is almost 10 years shorter than a majority of Louisville,” said Theo Edmonds, co-founder of IDEAS xLab. “The model we are developing uses artistic process, data and direct community engagement to define a common agenda and drive collective action to address these unacceptable health disparities.  The support of the Health Impact Project as a partner adds a valuable layer of scientific rigor and measurement to the planning process which is rare for an artist-led initiative.”

“The Special Project, which focuses on artmaking to strengthen families affected by incarceration, is already working to increase social support, especially for children, and address disparities in community health and safety.  We are certain that this partnership with YouthBuild and IDEAS xLabwill result in a strong plan to improve health outcomes,” said Judi Jennings, Director of The Special Project, “especially for our most vulnerable populations, and that what being a great city is all about.”

In addition to the funding, IDEAS xLab, as project manager, will receive technical assistance and training in tools such as health impact assessments (HIAs), which bring together scientific data, health expertise, and public input to identify the potential and often overlooked effects on public health of proposed laws, regulations, projects, policies, and programs.

The Health Impact Project also announced grants to fund projects in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Read full release here.

“The Health Impact Project focused on Southern and Appalachian states for these seven grants because research shows that while health inequities exist in these regions, the tools to help address them—such as health impact assessments—are rarely used,” said Rebecca Morley, director of the Health Impact Project. “We are pleased to collaborate with our partners and award grants that will help organizations that have a history of successfully addressing issues such as poverty, transportation, criminal justice, education, and housing to bring health evidence and community input into the policy process—leading to better health in the future.”

 “There are many factors that impact health, including where we live,” said Donald F. Schwarz, M.D., M.P.H., director at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “We are excited to support this effort to help address the health inequities faced by populations within the Southern and Appalachian states, and look forward to seeing the plans developed for addressing them.”

The Cultural Blueprint for Health’s HIA planning process is funded through October 2016. At the end of the grant period, the grantees together with a broad coalition of partners will implement strategies to address the issues they have identified.  To learn more about the Cultural Blueprint for Health and the Healthy Days initiative, please visit 


About YouthBuild Louisville

YouthBuild Louisville, located in Smoketown, is a full-time program helping youth ages 16-20 earn their high school diploma or GED, while gaining hands-on training in the Construction Trades, Urban Conservation Corps, Professional Medical Careers or Culinary Field. The program helps students overcome obstacles, including poverty, violence, abuse, drugs, fear, and lack of support. The program builds lasting relationships among students and staff committed to reaching their goals in the classroom, on the jobsite, and in life.

About IDEAS xLab

IDEAS xLab's is a catalytic artist-innovation company committed to driving large-scale change by training artists to become a unique force of social entrepreneurs and creative disruptors of the status quo who transform the American workforce by creating a healthier, more equitable approach to development. Through direct engagement with corporations, communities and governments, IDEAS xLab's framework for artist-led innovation empowers artists to extend their reach, deepen their impact, and fundamentally improve society.

About The Special Project

The Special Project, artmaking strengthening families affected by incarceration, originated in 2008 as a project of Kentucky Foundation for Women. a private independent philanthropy. In 2013, the Special Project joined Sesame Street’s national Initiative on Little Children/Big Challenges: Incarceration. In 2015, the Special Project became independent and continues its weekly artmaking activities in the jail lobby designed to increase family and social support and community safety.  The Special Project is also leading a Community Coaching Team, supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, that includes representatives from the Jefferson County Public Schools, Metro United Way, Kentucky Department of Corrections and the Kentuckiana Regional Development and Planning Agency.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
For more than 40 years, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. RWJF strives to build a national culture of health that will enable all to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. For more information, visit Follow the foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at

The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems. Pew applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public, and invigorate civic life. For more information, visit