The Yale School of Medicine spent four years evaluating our Porch Light program – a collaborative endeavor of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program and DBHIDS that aims to catalyze positive changes in the community, improve the physical environment, create opportunities for social connectedness, develop skills to enhance resilience and recovery, promote community and social inclusion, shed light on challenges faced by those with behavioral health issues, reduce stigma, and encourage empathy. More information about the Porch Light Project can be found HERE.
Now they are ready to share the evaluation results.
The evaluation was guided by a theory of change that specifies how certain neighborhood characteristics, collective efficacy among residents and aesthetic qualities of the neighborhood, can reduce established health risks associated with neighborhood decay and disorder. Public murals were expected to enhance these neighborhood characteristics in the short-term so as to promote long-term community health. The Porch Light theory of change also specifies how creation of a public mural by individuals with mental health or substance abuse challenges can reduce behavioral health stigma and enhance individual recovery and resilience. In collaboration with Porch Light stakeholders, the research team developed a logic model based on this underlying theory of change to guide the evaluation and examine community and individual-level outcomes.
The Porch Light Evaluation was part of a larger initiative, the Philadelphia Community Health Project (PCHP), conducted in collaboration with DBHIDS. The purpose of pchp was twofold: to identify appropriate comparison neighborhoods and participants from behavioral health agencies in Philadelphia for the Porch Light Evaluation, and to provide additional data to DBHIDS on the well-being, service use, and neighborhood conditions experienced by persons receiving behavioral health services. Porch Light and PCHP neighborhoods and agencies were matched on key characteristics, including conditions of neighborhood decay and disorder as well as demographic and neighborhood risk indicators, so as to enhance the scientific rigor of the evaluation.
After almost two years, residents living within one mile of more than one newly installed mural reported:
• A sustained relative increase in collective efficacy, including social cohesion and trust among neighbors as well as informal neighborhood social control.
• A modest but sustained relative increase in perceptions of neighborhood aesthetic quality, including the quality of the walking environment and perceived neighborhood safety.
• A promising and sustained relative decrease (again at a statistical trend) in stigma toward individuals with mental health or substance abuse challenges.
Full findings from the study that highlight the effectiveness of Porch Light program murals are available here.
This evaluation was made possible by funding from: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, City of Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services, Thomas Scattergood Behavioral Health Foundation, William Penn Foundation, Independence Foundation, The Philadelphia Foundation, The Patricia Kind Family Foundation, Hummingbird Foundation, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.