Healthy Communities

“We need to have collaborative approaches to addressing complex community problems, especially with the shift from more traditional programming to environmental, policy, and systems changes that can have large-scale community impact.”

Maggie Jones, MPH
Director, Center for Community Health & Evaluation

Research overview

Health is about more than health care. Where people live can have a profound influence on daily choices that can promote population health — or harm it. Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI) scientists work to improve and sustain community conditions that support health and equity.

At KPWHRI’s Center for Community Health and Evaluation (CCHE) we are working with foundations, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies to evaluate their community health improvement initiatives. A few examples:

  • Former CCHE director Allen Cheadle led a 10-year evaluation of Kaiser Permanente’s efforts to prevent obesity, including projects in more than 60 communities that promoted healthy eating and active living, largely through policy and environmental changes.
  • CCHE principal investigators Emily Bourcier and Lisa Schafer are leading an evaluation of the Strong, Prosperous, and Resilient Communities Challenge (SPARCC) — an ambitious, multifunder initiative to improve the way changes in the built environment advance racial equity, health, and climate resilience in 6 U.S. regions.
  • CCHE leads the evaluation of several initiatives to strengthen health care safety net organizations in California, including programs addressing trauma-informed care, chronic disease management, and population health management.

CCHE serves as the evaluation partner for Kaiser Permanente Washington’s (KPWA) Community Health and Benefit program, providing evaluation and strategic support for a wide range of regional initiatives, including built environment improvements in the community, school-based health centers, and healthy eating/active living programming for teachers. Beyond CCHE, other KPWHRI researchers are exploring opportunities to improve population health by creating healthier communities. Among these efforts are:

  • Associate investigator Dori Rosenberg, PhD, MPH, is investigating how the built environment can better encourage walking and other movement, especially for older adults and those who have limited mobility.
  • Associate investigator Clarissa Hsu, PhD, led LINCC, a project that tested a new community resource specialist (CRS) role in primary care clinics at KPWA. CRSs are now part of primary care teams at all KPWA clinics. They help patients set health goals and connect them with health-promoting resources in their own neighborhoods, including YMCAs, community centers, and farmers markets.
  • Senior investigator David Arterburn, MD, MPH, and colleagues from the University of Washington and from KPWHRI including Paula Lozano, MD, MPH, Andrea Cook, PhD, Jennifer Bobb, PhD, and Dr. Rosenberg are studying characteristics of neighborhoods that are most effective in encouraging healthy habits, such as walking, biking, and eating healthy. They are studying how neighborhoods may influence long-term health outcomes.
  • KPWHRI researchers have also examined the link between diabetes prevalence and neighborhood characteristics such as home value and education levels. They have also studied how other social and environmental factors affect health.

Answering questions about what makes a healthy environment gives policymakers, urban planners, and others the information they need to create healthier communities in the future.

Recent Publications on Healthy Communities

Prince SA, Lang JJ, de Groh M, Alacoque M, Badland H, Barnett A, Brandon N, Butler GP, Casu G, Cerin E, Colley RC, de Lannoy L, Demchenko I, Ellingwood H, Evenson K, Faulkner G, Fridman L, Friedenreich C, Fuller DL, Fuselli P, Giangregorio LM, Gupta N, Hino A, Hume C, Isernhagen B, Jalaludin B, Lakerveld J, Larouche R, Lemon S, Baugh Littlejohns L, Loucaides CA, Maddock J, McCormack G, Mehta A, Milton K, Mota J, Ngo VD, Owen N, Oyeyemi A, Palmeira A, Rainham D, Rhodes R, Ridgers N, Roosendaal I, Rosenberg D, Schipperijn J, Slater S, Storey K, Tremblay MS, Tully M, Vanderloo L, Veitch J, Vietinghoff C, Whiting S, Yang L, Geneau R. Prioritizing a research agenda on built environments and physical activity: a twin panel Delphi consensus process with researchers and knowledge users. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act.. 2023 Dec 7;20(1):144. doi: 10.1186/s12966-023-01533-y. PubMed

Jones M, Kuo E, Lee A, Sewald CA, Lustig K, Nevarez CR. Building public health competencies for cross-sector leadership: Results from the National Leadership Academy for the Public's Health. Health Promot Pract. 2023 Sep 30:15248399231201152. doi: 10.1177/15248399231201152. PubMed

Guo M, Brar Prayaga R, Levitz CE, Kuo ES, Ruiz E, Torres-Ozadali E, Escaron A. Tailoring a text messaging and fotonovela program to increase patient engagement in colorectal cancer screening in a large urban community clinic population: Quality improvement project. JMIR Cancer. 2023 Aug 10;9:e43024. doi: 10.2196/43024. PubMed

Brown MC, Hawley C, Ornelas IJ, Huber C, Beat L, Thorndike AN, Beresford S, Howard BV, Umans JG, Hager A, Fretts AM. Adapting a cooking, food budgeting and nutrition intervention for a rural community of American Indians with type 2 diabetes in the North-Central United States. Health Educ Res. 2022 Nov 7;cyac033. doi: 10.1093/her/cyac033. Online ahead of print. PubMed

Miller-Rosales C, McCloskey J, Uratsu CS, Ralston JD, Bayliss EA, Grant RW. Associations between different self-reported social risks and neighborhood-level resources in Medicaid patients. Med Care. 2022 Aug 1;60(8):563-569. doi: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000001735. Epub 2022 May 30. PubMed

our cche team

Much of the research in this area is conducted by our team at the Center for Community Health and Evaluation. For a complete list of these individuals, click HERE.

Researchers in Healthy Communities

Allen Cheadle, PhD

Senior Investigator, KPWHRI; Senior Research Associate, CCHE

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Clarissa Hsu, PhD

Associate Investigator

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Dori E. Rosenberg, PhD, MPH

Senior Investigator

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Maricela Cruz, PhD

Assistant Biostatistics Investigator

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Nicole M. Gatto, PhD, MPH

Principal Collaborative Scientist

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Meagan C. Brown, PhD, MPH

Assistant Investigator

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Kimberly Arthur, MPH

Collaborative Scientist

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Affiliate researchers in healthy communities

David Grembowski, PhD
Professor, Health Services and Oral Health Sciences
University of Washington