Des Moines has been selected by Reinvestment Fund and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to take part in the new Invest Health initiative. Invest Health is aimed at transforming how leaders from midsize American cities work together to help low-income communities thrive, with specific attention to community features that drive health, such as access to safe and affordable housing, places to play and exercise, and quality jobs.

Des Moines was selected from more than 180 teams from 170 communities between 50,000 and 400,000 population. The Des Moines team includes United Way of Central Iowa, Polk County Housing Trust Fund, the city of Des Moines, Des Moines University and the Polk County Health Department.

"We know that people's health and well-being is impacted by the health of their communities. Invest Health will help Des Moines plan for vibrant, thriving neighborhoods for everyone," said United Way President Mary Sellers. "We are excited to have so many great partners working together to take a holistic look at supporting the health of some of the most vulnerable residents of the city,"

Over the next 18 months, Invest Health teams will take part in a vibrant learning community, have access to highly skilled faculty advisers and coaches who will guide their efforts toward improved health, and receive a $60,000 grant.

The Des Moines team will work in partnership with low-income neighborhoods and residents to identify community features that affect health, and brainstorm potential solutions to implement within neighborhoods and the city. Solutions may include safer walking routes, improved access to transit, more opportunities for exercise and play, and better access to healthy food.