Public Health

How can community developers partner with the public health sector? This webpage provides an overview along with information on these topics:


The purpose of public health is to protect and improve the health of entire populations, in contrast to healthcare which treats individual patients. Public health is increasingly focused on health equity and preventing the root causes of chronic diseases like diabetes, asthma, and heart disease. For example, public health departments figure out how many people have diabetes, who is more vulnerable to it and why, what kinds of policies, programs, and partnerships will prevent heart disease. This data-driven field can be a strong partner in demonstrating the importance of community development and the need for investment. By improving the quality of life in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, community development by its very nature helps to prevent chronic disease and reduce the health disparities that exist between different neighborhoods. 

Forming Partnerships with Health Departments

This Shelterforce series provides an excellent orientation for community developers. 

NACEDA Summit 2020 featured the following session, which gives you the lay of the land on how the public health and community development sectors can work together to advocate for healthier places during the COVID Crisis:

  • Pandemic, Public Health, and the Opportunity to Strengthen Our Communities  features Oscar Alleyne of the National Association of County and City Health Officials; J.T. Lane of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials; Rebecca Payne of the Center for Disease Control & Prevention; and Doug Jutte of Build Healthy Places Network. View their presentation slides. This drawing summarizes their presentations. 

Connecting with state and local public health departments

NACEDA has been partnering with National Association of Chronic Disease Directors (NACDD) to connect chronic health divisions at state public health departments with community development associations. 

  • Use our NACDD Partner Finder to connect with the chronic disease division at your public health department.

  • Watch this webinar  Partnering with State Public Health Departments provides an overview of NACDD and how to connect to their members. It features Gabriel Kaplan of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment; John Robitscher of NACDD; Frank Woodruff of NACEDA; and Ben Wood of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health who describes how the state public health department provided resources to local community development corporations thanks to a partnership with the Massachusetts Association of CDCs. View the presentation slides.
  • See we educated chronic disease divisions. The webinar Understanding Public Health and Community Development Partnerships features a very persuasive Community Development 101 presentation by Doug Jutte of Build Healthy Places Network. Joe Kriesberg of the Massachusetts Association of CDCs and Ben Wood of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health discuss a partnership that benefits local community development corporations. View the presentation slides. 

    In addition, Frank Woodruff and Bernie Mazyck of the South Carolina Association for Community Economic Development discussed community development field is funding with NACDD's Chronic Disease Directors Forum, a private forum just for the department directors. View their presentation slides.

Other key associations:

  • National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) – Connect with NACCHO members and State Associations of County and City Health Officials. NACCHO's Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships can be a good entry point for community developers. community-driven strategic planning process for improving community health. Facilitated by public health leaders, this framework helps communities apply strategic thinking to prioritize public health issues and identify resources to address them.

  • Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) – Get to know these statewide leaders. They're for looking for non-traditional partners. A natural entry point for community development association is statewide public health assessment steering committees. Access the ASTHO directory and learn about their health equity initiatives.


  • NACCHO's National Profile of Local Health Departments provides data on local public health departments across the country, including funding, staffing, governance, and activities. NACCHO finds that 94% of local public health departments partner with community-based nonprofits in some way.

  • County Health Rankings and Roadmaps is an interactive tool to gauge the relative health of communities, providing a roadmap of steps to create healthy communities and a database that health-based policies and programs.

  • PLACES Project Local Data for Better Health provides city and census tract-level estimates for chronic disease risk factors, health outcomes, and clinical preventive service. Use it to create a custom report, customize visualizations, and more.

  • Pew Health Impact Project Cross-Sector Toolkit offers a collection of health impact assessments, guides, and other research to support policymakers’ efforts to consider health when making decisions across sectors, such as housing, planning, and education. 

  • Healthy Neighborhood Investments: A Policy Scan & Strategy Map provides policy actions for advancing health and racial equity through cross-sector investments with the public health and healthcare fields.

  • Plan4Health Healthy Community Toolkit provides policies, best practices, checklists for success, and webinars for coalitions looking to increase access to healthy food or increase opportunities for active living in their communities.