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Drexel UHC and Philadelphia Department of Public Health Partner for 500 Cities Project

Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH) was one of only 10 awardees selected to receive the grant.

Photo of Philadelphia Skyline

July 27, 2018

The Drexel Urban Health Collaborative is partnering with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health in hopes of understanding health disparities across Philadelphia neighborhoods.

Using a dataset that includes local estimates for chronic disease risk factors, health outcomes, and clinical preventive services from the largest 500 U.S. cities, the organizations are looking at the intersection of factors that contribution to the health of city residents.

The project is made possible through the 500 Cities Data Challenge — a $1 million, one-year grant from The Urban Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH) was one of only 10 awardees selected to receive the grant, which encourages grantees to design innovative solutions that address social factors that influence health. PDPH has partnered with UHC researchers for their expert guidance on geographic information, biostatistics methods, and neighborhood health topics relevant to their grant.

“We’re excited to work with PDPH on the 500 Cities Data Challenge, and honored to be a part of the project,” said Jana Hirsch, MES, PhD, assistant research professor at the UHC and the Drexel Dornsife School of Public Health. “The grant will allow for a more in-depth look at health within, not just between cities.”

When paired with other local indicators, the data provided through the 500 Cities Challenge will allow local municipalities to design innovative solutions to the myriad of social, economic, and physical factors driving community health outcomes.

The goal of the project is to create neighborhood health rankings, which will help policymakers, public health practitioners, and communities to understand and address the most prominent issues for specific places. It’s a goal that’s closely linked to the UHC mission: improving health in cities by increasing scientific knowledge and public awareness of urban health challenges and opportunities, and by identifying and promoting actions and policies that improve population health and reduce health inequities.

“We know that health is influenced by the neighborhoods and the environments where people live,” said Katie Livengood, MPH, assistant director at the UHC. “It’s at this level where we see potential for informed action to impact health. Partnering with PDPH will help us to not only see areas of opportunity, but to make a real impact in the city of Philadelphia. The knowledge that we gain here can be shared and put to use in cities across the nation.”

For a full list of the grantees and their projects, please visit