How the Curb-Cut Effect guides the work of NCHT

by Meredith Benton, former NCHT CEO

One of Natrona Collective Health Trust’s foundational beliefs is that everyone should have the opportunity to thrive in Natrona County. Unfortunately, data shows that disparities exist in the opportunity to thrive here – disparities by gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, race, and immigration status to name a few. Therefore, the Trust board and staff rely on the idea of the Curb-Cut Effect as a lens through which the work is done.

What is the Curb-Cut Effect?

A curb-cut is the dip when a sidewalk intersects with a street. They were required as part of the Americans with Disabilities Act to ensure individuals with physical disabilities could navigate their communities. While the intent was for that specific population, a much broader audience benefits, including parents pushing a stroller, individuals with an injury limiting their mobility, workers transporting goods, children riding bikes, etc. However, if this issue wasn’t seen through the lens of a person who has a physical disability, then the opportunity for all to benefit would be lost.

In this article on the Stanford Social Innovation Review, the authors outline more examples of The Curb-Cut Effect and how the concept can support further innovations. This includes the GI Bill, seat belt requirements for kids, smoking bans on planes for flight attendants, to name a few.

The Curb-Cut Effect at NCHT

The Trust’s approach to equity is built upon the Curb-Cut Effect. By addressing the needs of populations experiencing the disparities shown in data, our entire community benefits. This isn’t about only giving resources to specific populations. Instead, it’s about recognizing the needs of special populations, how it creates problems for all of us, and how by addressing the needs of those populations, everyone benefits.

Personally, I struggled as a single parent to live in Natrona County due to childcare limitations. After school and summer camps were limited. My ability to navigate childcare and my job necessitated my departure from the community. But what if as a community, we looked at the needs of single parents? What if after school was available at every school location? What if there were more summer camp offerings that lasted an entire workday? Wouldn’t all families benefit from these resources and not just single parent households? However, if we think that the majority of families here have two parents with one parent able to provide after-school care, then we miss the opportunity to support all families.

How could Natrona County better apply the curb-cut effect? How can you apply the curb-cut effect in your work to improve the opportunities for all community members to thrive?