Braiding Funds To Address Health Equity


Rhode Island braided funding from multiple sources to improve health in communities with high injury or illness rates and achieved measurable impact.

A closeup of coins stacked on a table that surround a small plant

May 24, 2019

Traditionally, when health departments receive grants, the money is categorical in nature, which means the funds are meant for a specific area of work, such as HIV prevention or emergency preparedness or infectious disease. But in 2015, the Rhode Island Department of Health linked funds from several state and federal grants and programs (a concept known as “braiding”) to create Health Equity Zonesexternal icon, designed to improve the health of communities with high rates of illness.

The health department develops and supports community-led programs that address the particular social, economic, and environmental conditions affecting health in each zone. Now in their fourth year, the zones are creating measurable changes, such as—

  • Providing evidence-based suicide prevention and mental health training to police officers, teachers, youth-serving organizations, and others
  • Diverting people from the criminal justice system to local opioid treatment and recovery support services
  • Sponsoring a program in which students can walk to school safely with a qualified adult, increasing attendance rates and decreasing tardiness at local elementary schools
  • Reducing teen pregnancy and childhood lead poisoning rates

In October 2018, the Rhode Island Foundation contributed $3.6 million in grantsexternal icon to six of the zones, adding to the health department’s $11.1 million investment.

For more information:

Ana P. Novais, Division of Community Health and Equity
Rhode Island Department of Healthexternal icon

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Page last reviewed: February 24, 2022