For decades, research has shown Black Americans are more prone to serious disease and death than whites, leading the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to declare racism as a serious public health threat. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, communities of color have been hit especially hard, with Black Americans dying of COVID-19 at twice the rate as white Americans.

Dr. Williams said he believes the holistic Purpose Built model is helping leaders in neighborhoods across the country intervene to improve health outcomes (Learn more about the Purpose Built model).

One of those neighborhoods is Historic South Atlanta, where community quarterback Focused Community Strategies (FCS) is addressing housing affordability, education and community wellness. In particular, their efforts to provide access to affordable, healthy food through the Carver Market, a grocery store in this former food desert, are having a positive ripple effect through the community.

According to Dr. Williams, “The health benefits a nearby grocery store can provide has been proven in neighborhood after neighborhood.” Grocery stores with affordable, healthy food also indirectly bolster health by offering employment opportunities. That is what resident Michelle Thomas experienced, as she has proudly moved from barista to assistant general manager of the Carver Market.

Purpose Built Communities collaborates with dozens of neighborhoods nationwide working to mitigate the damage done by centuries of systemic racism. “It took 400 years to get into this desperate situation,” concludes former executive board chair Shirley Franklin. “We didn’t get here overnight and it’s going to take some time to get out of this dilemma.”

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