By Corian Zacher
Graphic Courtesy of the Orchard Knob Neighborhood Association
Chattanooga, Tennessee, has made headlines throughout the last decade for the City’s efforts to connect residents with reliable, high-quality broadband access and the devices and skills necessary to get online. Now, those experiences are helping to inform efforts to improve health outcomes.
Through a multistakeholder partnership, the Orchard Knob Neighborhood Association, Parkridge Medical System, local electric provider EPB, Habitat for Humanity, green | spaces, and the Enterprise Center formed the Orchard Knob Collaborative to improve residents’ quality of life. With funding from a Tennessee Valley Authority grant, the Orchard Knob Collaborative provides infrastructure upgrades along with devices, technology training, home access, and no-cost telehealth appointments. It builds upon past efforts in the Orchard Knob neighborhood, where residents have poor health outcomes.
Broadband is a critical tool for powering initiatives that address high asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke rates in a community. In Chattanooga, efforts to expand high-speed connectivity coupled with installing air quality sensors, providing roof improvements, and updating heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are just a few ways the program is improving social determinants of health.
Grants from US Ignite, the National Science Foundation, and the Environmental Protection Agency funded smart sensors that track indoor and outdoor air quality in Chattanooga neighborhoods. Additionally, science kits available for check out at the library help residents understand what factors contribute to their health.
Past projects have focused on a distinct mission: providing low-income Chattanooga residents with devices, training, and home access. This project instead focuses one neighborhood, Orchard Knob, taking a community-driven approach to identifying needs and developing a priority list for the program.
Thoughtful residents are driving the project through resilient planning, supporting each other as well as the neighborhood. When deciding which HVAC systems to update first, Orchard Knob community members chose to prioritize the oldest HVAC units, oldest houses, and oldest residents in homes that people own.
As the project develops, local leaders are documenting best practices in a toolkit to help other communities do the same. The City hopes to expand the program to other neighborhoods in Chattanooga in the future.