In his third State of the City address, Mayor Luke Bronin described Hartford as “better and stronger” and cited awards won and initiatives championed. While residents, public officials, and pundits debate the extent to which “Hartford Has It,” unprecedented collaboration among Hartford’s community-based organizations, anchor institutions, city government, residents, and community activists is reason for hope.

Cooperation in developing compelling grant applications to support new city initiatives is impressive evidence of a collective commitment to improve the health and well-being of all residents, including those most disadvantaged.

New grant opportunities offer communities such as Hartford financial and technical support to engage all necessary sectors (e.g., health, education, family support, housing, neighborhood safety, transportation, workforce development, financial literacy, and others) in comprehensive, place-based initiatives to promote health and well-being, with a special focus on the vulnerable and underserved. Hartford’s capacity to submit several strong proposals is an encouraging indication of a newfound commitment to overcome silos and partner to serve the common good.

I am encouraged to learn that one such application has just been accepted, which involves the Connecticut Office of Health Strategy – State Innovation Model selecting Hartford as a reference community for planning a new Health Enhancement Community (HEC). The HEC initiative is designed to foster community-wide, multi-sector collaboration and accountability to promote community health improvement and equity.

With facilitation from the North Hartford Triple Aim Collaborative (NHTAC), the city’s Department of Health and Human Services submitted the proposal, clearly demonstrating a remarkably broad array of engaged partners who are willing and eager to work together and with the state. NHTAC members include the city of Hartford Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Mayor, North Hartford Promise Zone, Community Solutions (a national leader in community-based services), Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, North Hartford resident leadership, Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center/Trinity Health Of New England, University of Connecticut, Wellville (a national initiative to cultivate health at the community level), Connecticut Health Foundation, and United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut.

NHTAC’s top three priority areas are increasing access to healthy and nutritious food, improving child and family well-being, and improving community safety. NHTAC is perhaps most noteworthy for its commitment to align multiple, broad-reaching, health improvement efforts in Hartford. This is an impressive commitment among its members to work together to overcome silos and promote cross-sector collaboration that bodes well for the well-being of city residents.

A second, recent reason for optimism is Hartford’s strong response to a Request for Expression of Interest from Project HOPE (Harnessing Opportunity for Positive, Equitable Early Childhood Development). The HOPE consortium includes the Boston Medical Center Vital Village Network, the national BUILD Initiative, and Nemours Children’s Health System and is supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. HOPE’s stated aim is to work with communities and states to reduce inequities by addressing early childhood adversity through systems alignment, policy, and capacity-building strategies.

Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health (the Office) took the lead in developing a Hartford proposal in partnership with the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, the aforementioned NHTAC and its members, Parker Memorial Family Center, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Hartford, the City Department of Families, Children, Youth and Recreation, the Mayor’s Cabinet for Young Children, and The Village for Children and Families. We are eager to learn if this proposal will be accepted by Project HOPE.

A great strength of Hartford is the diversity of its 17 unique neighborhoods. While acknowledging the profound importance of each neighborhood’s history, culture, and distinct resources, local efforts are unlikely to have the necessary scale and impact to improve the overall health and well-being of all residents.

Collaboration and partnership among residents, community-based organizations, anchor institutions, local and state public officials, and funders are essential to success. Achieving such collaboration is challenging. Current efforts to promote synergy, collaboration, and partnership serve as a beacon for optimism and hope.

Of course, the extent to which such collaboration reduces disparities and promotes equity with optimal health and well-being for all will be the ultimate evidence of impact.  The unselfish and generous commitments of all parties to partner in this work will undoubtedly contribute to Hartford’s success.

Paul H. Dworkin, MD is Executive Vice President for Community Child Health, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.

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