Celebrating 5 Bright Cities Initiatives from 2021

December 17, 2021
hbbf team

Over the past year, all of our nearly 30 Bright Cities have worked to lessen the harm of neurotoxic chemicals for little ones and their families. In 2021, Bright Cities received $95,000 in grant funding from Healthy Babies Bright Futures, and we’re highlighting five of their incredible results. 

  1. Collaboratively building systems for resilience. Bright Cities hosted 3 virtual conversations with dynamic experts to help our Bright Cities leaders better integrate actions that protect babies’ brain development into climate, sustainability, and resilience planning. In a world transformed by COVID-19 and glaring racial disparities, this has never been more important. Listen to these extraordinary conversations here.
  2. Connecting toxic reduction to larger city issues. Flint, MI; Ann Arbor, M; and Providence, RI, received funding to model integration actions that reduce neurotoxic exposures into existing city strategies, like Ann Arbor’s 10,000 Trees Initiative. Providence staff integrated chemical reduction strategies into overarching strategic planning documents like the Comprehensive Plan and Providence’s code of ordinances. 
  3. Partnering to double the positive impact. In 2021, we saw Bright Cities learn from one another and share best practices to scale their projects and make an even larger impact. Providence’s online public health education campaign, Pesticide Free PVD, was modeled after Salt Lake City’s Pesticide Free SLC campaign. Other cities are encouraged to use this framework for their own Pesticide Free campaigns!  Similarly, Anchorage, AK developed a “Healthy Children in Toxic Free Childcare” training program that was approved for 2.5 hours of continuing education credits by the Alaska System for Early Education Development. Jackson, MS used this training too as part of their outreach to the city’s childcare centers.
  4. Leveraging data to protect infants. Mounting scientific evidence illustrates that food is the largest source of neurotoxic harm for most US babies. Drawing momentum from our research showing that 95% of tested baby food include toxic chemicals that lower babies’ IQ, Salem and Lynn MA; Champaign IL; and Salt Lake City implemented programs to increase access to healthier foods in disproportionately impacted neighborhoods. By embracing the data and finding ways to address the largest source of toxic exposures, these cities showed their flexibility and innovation. They followed the science to create unique opportunities like repurposing vacant municipal parks for community food farms and bundling free, organic food delivery with pre– and postnatal services. Learn more about these projects and more in our Bright Cities case studies
  5. Fostering meaningful cross-sector partnerships.  Our deep collaboration with the Mayors Innovation Project resulted in collaborative grant funding for five Bright Cities and a larger organizational reach to mayors—like Mayor Kim Driscoll and Mayor Marita Garrett—and diverse city leaders. Salt Lake City, for example, took the lead in engaging community residents to develop city–funded solutions to the lack of organic and culturally relevant food in low food access neighborhoods.

Our work resulted in more city leadership voices talking about the importance of reducing neurotoxic exposures, new peer-connections between city staff that would not have connected otherwise, and an elevated awareness of taking action to reduce exposures to the often invisible chemicals that harm babies’ brain development in national organizations serving cities. 

In 2022, we will continue to develop practical models—and estimates of their impact—that cities can implement within their existing planning to better protect all the babies in our lives, regardless of their zip code or their genetic code. Read more in our Bright Cities case studies to find a place to start and stay tuned for new grant opportunities in 2022!

Is your City interested in being part of Healthy Babies Bright Futures’ Bright Cities program? To discuss this and anything else, please contact Bright Cities Program Director, Kyra Naumoff Shields at knaumoff@hbbf.org.