A social work grand challenge is to identify, through intervention research, cost-effective evidence-based approaches to address neighborhood factors that contribute to resident disparities in health, education, income, and crime. Implicit in this challenge is that residents of low-income neighborhoods experience disparities in a range of health and well-being outcomes at a higher rate than residents in middle and high income neighborhoods. A goal of the challenge is to eradicate inequities experienced by low-income children by virtue of being born and raised in a low-income neighborhood.
It is understood that neighborhoods play an important role in a wide range of outcomes for low-income individuals and families. There are a number of promising theoretical frameworks such as collective efficacy, community economic development, or the social development model that can guide programs aimed at improving neighborhoods for residents. However, most neighborhood change interventions, such as comprehensive community initiatives and community development corporations, have shown marginal or inconsistent success in changing the individual, neighborhood and systems level factors that are hypothesized to reduce the inequities experienced by residents who find themselves living in a low-income neighborhood of concentrated disadvantage.
Social work seems well poised to address this challenge, but not without significant innovation and interdisciplinary and cross-sector collaboration. A few of the many factors that may be important in addressing this grand challenge include: greater proficiency in advanced statistical methods to test neighborhood effects; innovation in our approach to community participation such that community change initiatives garner authentic and dense participation by neighborhood residents; collaboration across disciplines that are often stigmatized in social work such as economics, business, and planning; continued progress in the marrying of evidence-based research with community-based research.