The Duke Endowment awarded a $750,000 grant to improve Durham residents' health. Here’s what it’s been used for so far

A grant awarded by The Duke Endowment in April hopes to empower Duke Health to improve the health and well-being of Durham residents.

The $750,000 grant will support the Partnership for a Healthy Durham, a group of Durham organizations and community members who share a goal of “collaboratively improving the physical, mental, and social health and well-being of Durham’s residents.” Duke was a founding member of the Partnership. 

The grant will be spent over five years, aiming to address physical activity, nutrition and food access in Durham through community engagement, data collection and food equity education.

With the grant, the Partnership joins Healthy People, Healthy Carolinas, an initiative of the Endowment that includes 24 other organizations working to address chronic health issues in the Carolinas. 

“In order to have real impact, it takes a lot of time, it takes resources and it takes building strong relationships,” said Bria Miller, Partnership for a Healthy Durham coordinator. “This grant gives us the ability to do all three, and it allows us to authentically engage with our community and to take the time that is needed to provide whatever it is that the people are telling us.”

Since April, the Partnership has hired a specialist to focus on the areas of physical activity, nutrition and food access. According to Miller, the specialist is paid through the money provided by the grant, which gives them the resources to “build the relationships and make sure that all of the work is moving forward.”

The Partnership has also since worked with racial equity consultants from Communities in Partnership to host a four-part series that discussed racial equity and food justice, according to Miller. 

“It's really moving more towards the upstream and focusing less on charity, and more on how we can build a better and more sustainable system,” she said.

In the coming years, the Partnership plans to utilize the grant to operationalize its “racial equity principle,” host community engagement events, gather feedback on their approach and implement new findings. This includes future “community cafes” held in both English and Spanish at spots based on the Partnerships’ Durham County Food Apartheid Map.

The grant also aims to engage the community and support community-driven initiatives, such as paying for more Durham residents to serve in leadership roles in the organization and hosting listening sessions in the city’s public schools. 

Currently, the grant is organized for a year-long “launching phase” and completion of its goals at the end of December 2027, offering coaching and technical support to help organizations keep the projects moving in the meantime. 

“I think that is really the key to what we’re seeing in terms of success across the coalitions, is that level of support in whatever areas are necessary to keep moving the project forward,” said Michelle Lyn, assistant professor in family medicine and community health. 

The grant is only one example of collaboration across these organizations within Durham. For example, the Partnership currently collaborates with Durham’s government on the county’s triennial community health assessment, which Lyn says is especially community-driven.

“[While] asking the residents of Durham what the major health priorities were for the county — education, mental health, transportation — they were coming out very early,” she said. “I think Durham County was well ahead of many other parts of the country in recognizing that those were issues that, certainly, were health priorities.”

Jothi Gupta profile
Jothi Gupta | University News Editor

Jothi Gupta is a Trinity sophomore and a university news editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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