Health is about much more than the care you receive in a hospital or clinic — it’s about the places and spaces where you live and play that have a profound impact on overall well-being. Deeply Rooted, a community-academic collaborative to promote health equity in Black and brown neighborhoods, embodies that idea.
By increasing greenspace, offering community grants, providing career development, and promoting environmental justice, this partnership between the Penn Urban Health Lab and over 13 community and faith-based organizations, aims to reduce violent crime, improve public health, and reverse health inequities, all of which are effects of structural racism on neighborhoods that have experienced disinvestment. The team plans to green over a million square feet of vacant lots in West and Southwest Philadelphia.
The value of this greening and investment has been demonstrated through research led by Penn Urban Health lab faculty director Eugenia South, MD, MSHP, an assistant professor of Emergency Medicine in the Perelman School of Medicine. These studies have shown the impact of vacant lots, blighted houses, and lack of trees and other greenspaces on rates of violence and poor health outcomes in predominantly Black and brown neighborhoods, including increased rates of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and heart disease compared to their white counterparts.
Deeply Rooted launched in May 2022 with multi-million dollar investments from both Penn Medicine and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society serving as the lead strategic greenspace implementation partner. The initial community partners represent four different neighborhoods in West and Southwest Philadelphia, with three to four partner organizations in each.