Built Environment

Cook County, GA
United States

The House of Grace, Candy Cane’s Learning Center, Cook Senior Center Holy Community Church, LAB Support Group 

Used data to inform and explain inequities across a range of social determinants of health in western Cook County, Georgia. 

In 2019, Cook County Family Connection (CCFC) investigated social determinants of health outcomes in the four census tracts of Cook County, Georgia. Their work revealed that the western tract of the county, which has the highest rate of Black and Hispanic residents, had far worse health outcomes than the rest of the county. This project sought to collect new data, deepen CCFC’s understanding of resident needs, and demonstrate how to address health disparities in the western census tracts.

CCFC conducted focus groups, a survey, key informant interviews, and windshield surveys in the western tract of the county. Focus groups and surveys were conducted in partnership with community organizations, schools, and social service providers, and focused on resident well-being and access to services. Key informant interviews engaged local leaders and partners in the research and created an understanding of what resources are available and are most needed in the community. The windshield survey documented built-environment conditions in the area—including for housing, public spaces, and infrastructure—and mapped community assets, such as grocery stores, parks, churches, and child care centers.

The majority of residents surveyed rated their own financial situation as poor. Residents also identified blight, disconnected youth, and homelessness as challenges. They noted that their community lacked urgent care facilities, public transportation, decent housing, and youth programs.

The survey also documented community assets, with residents expressing appreciation for their area’s safety, neighborly atmosphere, quality county school system, and highly rated child care providers. They identified community priorities as improving access to health care—including addiction and mental health services—as well as public transportation, youth and parenting programs, homelessness services, a community center, and affordable housing and utilities. Focus group participants shared many of the same concerns as survey respondents and added their personal stories and experiences, noting that the western census tract is rarely the focus of investments for research and planning to improve health equity. One focus group participant said about this project that, "For years, I've been invisible, and nobody cared what I thought, what my ideas were. So just to have somebody listen is so important."

CCFC published a report detailing their research conclusions and processes, and are disseminating the findings through local media, social media, and direct outreach to key partners. Their direct outreach will include discussing these findings with local and state agencies and funders, and sharing how to get involved and invest in improving health disparities revealed in the data.