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Linking health and jobs strategies accelerates community improvement

What does success look like in your community?  Many of us might say a thriving economy, with a steady supply of good jobs. But that’s only part of the picture.

The vitality of a community is defined not just by the strength of its economy and jobs, but also by the health and education of its people, according to United Way leaders across the U.S.

In fact, linking strategies to boost health and jobs makes a big difference in accelerating community improvements, these leaders say.  And that highlights the opportunity for organizations working to boost communities – including government, employers, nonprofits, educators, health care providers, faith leaders and more – to do more to integrate efforts to improve outcomes.

Some 84% of the United Way CEOs responding to a recent survey say the health and jobs priorities of their communities are connected to varying degrees for their success.  But only 27 percent of these leaders are seeing health and jobs priorities actually integrated in local efforts to improve communities.   Ninety seven percent of CEOs felt that an effective way to integrate and advance these priorities would be to expand access to health care services.  For example, it could help address preventable health care issues before they impede someone’s performance on the job.   Ninety-two percent viewed advocacy for full public funding for early childcare and education services for kids as an effective approach to further jobs and health priorities.  By taking care of the need for quality childcare, working parents would have more flexibility and looking for, securing and maintaining good employment.

Work conducted in Burlington, VT offers another good example of how jobs and health strategies can be linked.  Working Bridges is an employer collaborative brought together by United Way of Chittenden County, dedicated to helping people get and keep good jobs. But issues like unexpected expenses due to illness can create problems for workers, and high turnover for employers. Working Bridges connects people to services for which they’re eligible that can keep them healthy, or meet other needs. 

In Salt Lake City, leaders are connecting jobs and health strategies through community schools, which offer kids and families a “hub” of services in struggling communities (inside the school, but open on nights and weekends).  Not only are families getting job and computer training, and help learning English, but they’re also getting connected to medical care.  The United Way of Salt Lake City says that in one community, the number of families receiving ongoing preventative or regular health care has increased by 32 percent; in another, 36 percent more kids are getting immunized.

These are only a few examples of how community leaders are linking jobs and health strategies.  To find out more about United Way’s work in financial stability or health (or to find your own United Way), visit www.unitedway.org.

The survey was conducted this spring, as part of the United Way Community Leader Panel, which takes snapshots of community issues through the lens of local United Way leaders.

United Way works across issues to integrate strategies and strengthen communities.

Learn more about how United Way is helping families and communities live healthy and financially stable lives.

HealthFinancial Stability