Friday, February 12, 2016 12:00 AM

Collaborating to build healthier neighborhoods

Community Regional Medical Center planted its roots in downtown Fresno more than a hundred years ago, and it’s since led the city’s largest private redevelopment project. It has a long history of collaborating with others to help revitalize an area described by the Brookings Institution as having some of the nation’s most concentrated urban poverty. 

Recently, Community Regional partnered with the City of Fresno, area residents and others on a Building Neighborhood Capacity Program in the neighborhood surrounding Fresno Unified School District’s Yokomi Elementary School. Fresno was one of four cities selected in 2011 by the Department of Justice for the revitalization effort, which matches federal and local funding. It is key part of Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin’s citywide Restore Fresno project. Driven by area residents and their unique needs, the program aims to improve education, employment, housing, policing and overall health. Yokomi was just added this year to the federal grant program that’s already being used successfully in other needy Fresno neighborhoods.

More than half of the Yokomi neighborhood’s 4,300 residents live in poverty and half of adults don’t have a high school diploma – that’s twice as high as the rest of the City of Fresno. And more than a third of Yokomi residents say English is not their primary language. Fresno is among the top 10 metropolitan areas in the U.S. with the highest concentrations of poverty by race for black, Latino and whites, found a new national study “Architecture of Segregation” by The Century Foundation.

During the past two decades, Community Medical Centers has collaborated in other ways on revitalization. Community partnered with the City of Fresno Central Police District’s on a federal Weed and Seed program grant, designed to “weed” out crime, and then “seed” targeted neighborhoods like Yokomi with programs for youth, families and seniors and to grow local businesses.

And for nearly 10 years until 2008, through the Community Job Institute, the healthcare system worked with educators and government agencies to provide parents of students in five elementary schools with job training and work experience.

“Improving the community’s overall health is integral to our mission,” said Craig Wagoner, Community Regional’s CEO. “Nowhere is that more true than in lending a hand to neighbors around our hospital home.”

Reported by Erin Kennedy and John G. Taylor. Reach them at