Innovation in Action

Experiential Learning and Student Development

The Center for Community Health Innovation positions students as leaders in the Roanoke Valley through active engagement in data collection, analysis, and dissemination of materials supporting local projects and initiatives. Each year, the Center supports nearly a dozen students from diverse academic backgrounds through the translation of data into significant, real-world change. These experiences have enabled students to appreciate the need for service-focused, purpose-driven research opportunities, and thus emboldens the very mission of Roanoke College to live life on purpose.

In addition to gaining translational research experiences, students are encouraged to disseminate their work at professional meetings and conferences.

For information on current and future opportunities for student engagement in Center activities, contact us at

The Roanoke Valley Community Healthy Living Index

The Roanoke Valley Community Health Living Index (RV-CHLI) is an annual health surveillance system developed to facilitate awareness of relationships between ‘place’ and health across Roanoke’s city neighborhoods. Adapted from a previously validated tool from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the RV-CHLI combines GIS technologies with familial perceptions of access to healthy living resources and objective measures of youth health outcomes to better understand neighborhood-level health inequities. In this way, the RV-CHLI serves to empower community stakeholders to make informed decisions in the development of projects and programs seeking to improve community health while enhancing collective impact in the neighborhoods that need it most.

In addition to providing an array of local stakeholders with benchmark data concerning youth health status across the city of Roanoke, the RV-CHLI has served as a catalyst for strategic planning for Roanoke’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan, the Roanoke City Invest Health Initiative, and an array of community development projects, including school gardens, grocery retail, city playgrounds, and walkability enhancements.  

As a service to our partners, we also prepare tailored research reports and give research presentations on request. To request tailored services, please contact us at 

Invest Health

A highly-selective national initiative funded by Reinvestment Fund and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Invest Health encourages cross-sector partners from mid-sized cities around the United States to advance systems-level strategies to support health improvement in low-income neighborhoods. As the anchor for Roanoke’s Invest Health Initiative, the Center for Community Health Innovation works with residents and cross-sector partners to identify challenges and develop innovative strategies to enhance healthy living in the Roanoke Valley.

Through our recent work on the Northwest Food Access Initiative, we engage with a variety of cross-sector partners to promote access to healthy, affordable foods in Roanoke’s Melrose-Orange Target Area.

Health Policy Initiatives

As the anchor to Roanoke’s involvement in the Build Healthy Communities for Children and Families cohort initiative funded by ChangeLab Solutions, the Center for Community Health Innovation is working closely with the City of Roanoke to infuse the city’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan with policies promoting health and equity. Co-led with Freedom First Credit Union, we seek to fortify ongoing community efforts related to health and equity using the tools of law and policy.

For more information on the development of the 2040 Comprehensive Plan and how to get involved, visit