New research led by Dr. Jana A. Hirsch, assistant research professor at the Drexel Urban Health Collaborative, Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health, benchmarks conditions in federally qualified opportunity zones (QOZ) to facilitate investigations of how they may impact health. The federal government implemented QOZs through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017. This new legislation, intended to incentivize investment in distressed communities, could have a dramatic effect on US neighborhoods and the health of residents. This study was published in the American Journal of Public Health.
QOZ designation could impact economic conditions and change neighborhoods’ retail or physical environments. These changes could promote healthy behaviors, such as increased physical activity and enhance diet quality, to ultimately improve cardiovascular and other chronic health outcomes. However, QOZs could also have less beneficial or unequal effects through changes in population, shifts in social engagement among neighbors, gentrification, and displacement of vulnerable populations.
Evaluating the effects of QOZ on health is important because limited previous research links place-based policies like QOZ to health. QOZs will most benefit distressed communities if investors, local governments, and community organizations guide investment and shape how this policy is implemented. Public health can and should be part of that discussion.Friday Letter Submission, Publish on February 21