OneCranston HEZ asks what the city needs

Posted 8/23/23

The OneCranston Health Equity Zone (HEZ) conducted its second city-wide needs assessment during the month of April in hopes of further understanding needs within the Cranston community.

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OneCranston HEZ asks what the city needs


The OneCranston Health Equity Zone (HEZ) conducted its second city-wide needs assessment during the month of April in hopes of further understanding needs within the Cranston community.

The survey, which received a little over 300 responses, was broken up into five different work groups to analyze the data received and begin the process of creating action plans to use that information in making the city a better place. Among these groups the information was separated into areas pertaining to physical health and nutrition, community connectors, built environment, trauma/mental health and youth opportunities.

Data from the survey was presented to the public and their leaders during a gallery style show at the Cranston Library’s Central Branch, 140 Sockanosset Cross Rd., on August 16 in the community room. The presentation, still on display until the end of August, allows those who take the time to see it a chance to see a broader view of Cranston’s population and the troubles they face.

 “Our HEZ has been around since 2019 and we’re about to enter our fifth year,” said Initiative Director of OneCranston HEZ Sarah Cote. “Every HEZ starts off with a needs assessment. This is part of kicking off the work because we’re so centered in understanding resident’s needs. HEZs are a resident driven initiative aimed at understanding and addressing the root causes of health disparities in the community.”

Cote said that the HEZ looks at the social determinants of health and looks at things that impact someone’s ability to live a healthy life that occur in their life settings, their employment settings and their access to opportunities. Things like housing, transportation, food insecurity, education and even access to green spaces are all concerns when an HEZ looks into different things impacting resident health.

“It went really well,” Cote said of the survey’s presentation. “We had a good turnout considering we threw it together in the matter of just a few weeks. Residents know their communities best and we put them in positions where they can share with us what their needs are.”

In the newer assessment HEZ found a variety of challenges that residents of Cranston currently face.

When it came to physical health and nutrition the survey revealed that 50% of Cranston residents are prevented from eating a more balanced diet due to a lack of money, while 31% find themselves eating an unbalanced diet due to lack of time.

The health and nutrition group also looked at physical activity and found that 45% of residents are unable to be more physically active due to that same lack of time, while 25% of Cranstonians have a disability or medical condition that stops them from being more active.

With the main work of a HEZ being resident need driven, it is important to actually hear from those living in the area in order to designate efforts accordingly. After all, resident needs are directly translated into initiatives and programming based on them.

“I would say there are probably different things from each group that are important to look at,” Cote said. “Mental health, I think, is a concern that is not surprising. A lot of what we gathered is not a surprise to anyone with how life is post COVID. It wasn’t the only problem the people of Cranston are facing though.”

The first needs assessment that OneCranston HEZ performed ended right as COVID started, Cote said. As a result of the difficulties and changes to the social order caused by the pandemic, the OneCranston HEZ decided that it was important to perform another needs assessment in order to better understand the changes in resident needs after such a trying period in the city’s, and world’s, history.

“We also want to know how connected people feel to the rest of their city,” Cote explained. “Human connection is an important part of a healthy community.”

In this vein, the HEZ created a community connectors group in the hope of analyzing how healthy the community is as a cohesive group. Those who took the survey were asked how satisfied they are living within their community, 41%, and if they feel connected to the larger Cranston community, with 71 % feeling neutral or worse regarding their connection to the community. 

“Some people wanted help connecting with local leaders for self advocacy,” relayed Cote from the data collected with the help of the survey. “That’s something we’ve already had plans to work on since so people have already come to us for our help with that.”

Connection is only a part of what makes people feel safe in their community. However, things a simple and overlookable as infrastructure can make a significant impact. The built environment category of the survey revealed several concerns that some may overlook on a daily basis.

For example, only 43% of the community felt that there are safe and accessible sidewalks in their community, while 56% felt neutral or worse about the topic. Additionally, this category of the survey also looked at housing cost, home repair and vermin.

“Housing cost came up quite a bit,” Cote said while looking at the data showing 45% of the survey takers had issues with housing costs. “There was also interest in seeing Budlong pool return. A lot of concern about traffic and speeding, as well as a call to repair sidewalks and maybe add in bike lanes. Rodents, rats and vermin came up quite a bit, with a lot of people citing problems with rats and vermin in their areas. I think for this one there was just a general call for more maintenance in different public spaces.”

When it came to the category of mental health and trauma, Cote said that they saw some harsh but unsurprising numbers.

“We had a section basically asking people ‘how much of this is in yourself’ and ‘how much do you see in your loved ones and community?’,” explained Cote. “Things like mental illness, substance abuse and different forms of mental trauma were the focus there.”

While the numbers may not be surprising to those in the health fields, they could still be considered alarming. Of those who took the survey, 24% of people reported feeling stressed on a daily basis, almost 30% have personally experience mental illness, 21% have suffered from domestic violence and 19% felt mental and emotional stress from family separation which Cote said was a new finding from the previous surveys.

“We are using this information as a jumping off point for our HEZ's work in the coming years,” Cote said. “We’re still in the planning phases for a lot of that. It’s what we’ll be doing throughout this whole summer. We did an event in June where many of our group members came, and they were the first ones to see all these findings and start to provide some contextual pieces to them to think about. Throughout the summer each group meets once a month. So, they’ve also just started diving in to what they want to do from here.”

Cote said that one of the last, and most notable, needs that came from the survey was a desire to learn about different trades that are available in addition to the normal college reps that are available. In order to help meet that need the HEZ will be planning some different trade related workshops, planning to call the program “Tacos and Trades,” to help both students and adults explore different employment paths.

“I’m a big dreamer so I want to fix all of them,” Cote said in answer to which problems facing Cranston she wants to see HEZ help solve. “It’s interesting, but I think each of the groups we have exist for a reason. We have learned a lot within each of these different buckets, and there’s need within all of them. I don’t think I can pick one over the other. I think for me the mental health definitely stands out, and thinking of what we’ve learned about COVID impact and how there’s been a lot of challenges associated with youth mental health and social-emotional health delays; I think that’s a biggie. I know a lot of members of our group have been thinking about that already, but I think now that we have numbers to match to it we’ll probably be doing even more in that direction.”

OneCranston, HEZ, equity