September project update

New developments this month include a new graduate assistant, new (and renewed) collaborations with UMass Dartmouth faculty and their students, and even a new project to announce. Read on:

1) SouthCoast health planning dashboard

If you haven’t noticed, 2013 is the year of public health for the Urban Initiative. This is an exciting direction for us, and not only because health is so closely connected to every other urban issue we study, particularly in cities like New Bedford and Fall River. We’re also excited to have the opportunity to work with group of individuals and organizations that collaborate genuinely and effectively to promote better health outcomes for SouthCoast residents. And as we know, collaboration matters!

Our newest health-related project will be to work with a great team of regional health organizations (headed up by the indefatigable Dave Weed of Partners for a Healthier Community) to develop an information-sharing tool that will build the capacity of our region when it comes to understanding and acting upon health needs and opportunities. The main feature of the site will be a tool that allows partner organizations to share local health data and resources in a timely and interactive way, serving as a “dashboard” to guide decision-making. Stay tuned for more updates and let us know if you’re interested in learning more about joining this project!

2) Taunton HOPE VI evaluation

This month has us drafting our first annual report on the progress of the Taunton Housing Authority’s HOPE VI project, which will include data related to the city, the neighborhood, and the original residents of the former Fairfax Gardens housing development.

3) LifeWork evaluation

The Women’s Fund has just enrolled the first cohort of participants in its pilot program, LifeWork. Over the next few months, the Urban Initiative will work with LifeWork program staff to collect baseline data on participants so that we can establish a baseline against which to measure individual and collective progress toward the program’s goals of advancing educational attainment, improving employment status and earnings, and helping women on a path to financial self-sufficiency.

4) College access

We’re currently working with our team of high school interns to finalize their report on findings related to college access in the SouthCoast, and we’ll soon be announcing a report release event.

5) SouthCoast Hospitals Community Needs Assessment

We’ve been working with our colleagues of the UMass Dartmouth Center for Policy Analysis to develop the community needs assessment for the SouthCoast Hospitals system. The assessment includes data on health status and social determinants of health for the region spanning Swansea to Wareham.

6) NB Line

We’re currently working on reporting our findings from the second year of evaluating the NB Line, a shuttle system being piloted in downtown New Bedford by the city’s National Park.

7) Faculty/student collaborations

This semester, we’ve been asked to identify community-based research projects for students in Professor Sarah Cosgrove’s Urban Economics course as well as students in Professor Gloria de Sa’s Sociology course. We got a lot of great ideas from our community partners for projects that will build students’ skills, help them apply their coursework, and develop a better understanding of needs and opportunities in Fall River and New Bedford. We look forward to updating you on the projects these students have chosen to take on!

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