• Care Ring

Mark DeHaven: Finding Neighborhood Solutions - The Power in "Patterns of Relationships"

Updated: Mar 6


Note: This blog post is a companion piece to Care Ring’s “Seeking the Heart” podcast series in which we talk with leaders from across the region about their ideas and insights on how we can create a better health care system for ALL. To listen to “Seeking the Heart,” simply click here, or search for “Seeking the Heart” on your favorite podcast platform.

In this week’s episode of our “Seeking the Heart” podcast, UNC Charlotte Professor Dr. Mark DeHaven shares ideas on improving community health and establishing a better system of healthcare for all. For Dr. DeHaven, any local effort to improve health must start by first understanding the patterns of relationships that already exist in local neighborhoods.

Neighborhoods are by definition unique places. No two are the same. In each one you will find distinct patterns of human relationships. Individuals from different walks of life interact in multiple ways, every day, and across every dimension of life in neighborhoods across the US.

Communities are complex and highly individualized, and emerging research from the social sciences teaches us to value and whenever possible utilize existing relationships already at work within neighborhoods when we seek to spark change or introduce a new service or program.

Dr. DeHaven leads the Academy for Research on Community Health, Engagement and Services at UNC Charlotte, where he oversees a cross-disciplinary team of faculty and students engaged in community action research. His research has been fueled by leading national funders, including the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control. Before coming to Charlotte he was part of a team that established an effort in Dallas connecting multiple hospitals and hundreds of volunteer providers in a collaborative system for the uninsured, a model very similar to our Physicians Reach Out program in Charlotte.

Dr. DeHaven uses lessons learned from leading community health interventions in places around the world (including China and Mexico) to influence his work in Charlotte, perhaps most prominently through his work with the innovative UCITY Family Zone.

Centered in the neighborhood enveloping UNC Charlotte and including nearby businesses and residences, UCITY Family Zone provides a real time, local case study on how to build on and support the pattern of relationships already existing in an area of Charlotte.

Early outcomes from this approach are promising, with organizations like the Camino Community Center near campus playing a key role. Houses of worship and more than 60 other locally-based organizations are essential partners in establishing a vision and then developing a plan to advance the quality of life on a range of measures (including education, housing, health care and much more).

This episode provides an introduction to a strategic community-based approach to improving community health. Along the way you will learn more about why Dr. DeHaven does this work, including his inspiration and what motivates him to serve others.


Author: Donald K. Jonas, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Care Ring