Category Archives: Healthy communities
In February, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation honored six communities with the inaugural RWJF Roadmaps to Health Prize, which recognizes outstanding community partnerships that are helping people live healthier lives.
Recently, NewPublicHealth spoke with Claude-Alix Jacob, chief public health officer at the Cambridge, Mass., department of health, one of the six prize-winning communities to be recognized by the Foundation. Mr. Jacob spoke to NPH about how collaborating around and winning the Prize has impacted the community, including resilience in the face of tragedy.
>>Apply to become a winner of the 2013-2014 RWJF Roadmaps to Health Prize. This year's application deadline is May 23, 2013.
NewPublicHealth: What did winning the RWJF Roadmaps to Health Prize mean to your community?
Claude Jacob: It has been great and exiting news for our community. Over the course of the last few months and through National Public Health Week last month we’ve had a chance to celebrate. We’ve been able to share our public health plans and community partnerships, but also under the aegis of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we now have more credibility for all of our efforts. The Foundation is associated with promoting important health improvement efforts nationwide and just to be linked to the Foundation will open doors, especially now that we’re one of the six inaugural prize winning communities.
During National Public Health Week we invited our community stakeholders to celebrate to thank them for their hard work in helping us to prepare for the site visit that was required of prize finalists. So it’s been a phenomenal few weeks.
NPH: How has winning the prize impacted the health improvements of your community?
Urban Farming, founded by recording artist Taja Sevelle, is a nonprofit organization with a goal of reducing hunger and increasing access to fresh, healthy foods by encouraging people in urban, rural and suburban areas to plant gardens on unused land. There are now over 66,600 community, residential and partner gardens that are part of the Urban Farming Global Food Chain around the world.
NewPublicHealth recently spoke with Taja Sevelle about the group and its plans for the future.
NewPublicHealth: How did you become interested in the issue of Urban Farming?
Taja Sevelle: I was recording a CD for Sony Records in Detroit, Mich., when I began to see the vast amounts of unused land in the city. I knew that numerous jobs were being shipped overseas and a lot of people who had lost their jobs were suffering. So, in 2005 I put my music career on the back burner and started Urban Farming with three gardens and a pamphlet. It was always a global vision that grew rapidly and started to get international coverage quickly.
Even though this seems like a new idea, it really is just reacquainting people with the age-old act of planting food. The World War II victory gardens, for example, are a great model because during that time, 20 million Americans planted gardens and grew almost half of the U.S. produce supply. Recently, when the economic downfall hit around the world, planting a garden became a necessity for many people who may not have been thinking about it previously.
NPH: What are the key goals for Urban Farming?
Howard County has been the healthiest in Maryland since the Country Health Rankings launched in 2010. NewPublicHealth recently spoke with the county’s executive, Ken Ulman, about how the Rankings have helped drive further progress in improving the health of Howard County. Health initiatives introduced by Howard County have included a program that certifies schools as “Healthy Schools,” if they meet criteria in several areas including nutrition and physical activity, and a smoking ban in all county parks.
NewPublicHealth: Howard County has been consistently been ranked the healthiest county in Maryland. What key factors do you credit for that?
Ken Ulman: We start with some advantages. We have the blessings of a highly educated population that cares deeply about their community and have good jobs, and many, though not all, have [adequate financial] resources and access to care. We also have the advantage of having a nonprofit, the Horizon Foundation, based in Howard County that is dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of people living and working in our county.
So it’s a combination of policy initiatives coupled with a public that really wants to make progress in these areas.
NPH: Have the County Health Rankings helped drive any of your public health and prevention initiatives?
Municipal mixed-use zoning is a public health strategy to create more walkable neighborhoods by creating integrated, un-siloed access to daily activities—such as going grocery shopping and traveling to school and work. A recent study in a special issue of the Journal of Health, Politics, Policy and Law funded by Public Health Law Research, a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, evaluated municipal zoning ordinances in 22 California cities to see whether the ordinances improved walkability in those communities. NewPublicHealth spoke with the study’s two authors, Sue Thomas, PhD, senior research scientist at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation-Santa Cruz (PIRE) and Carol Cannon, PhD, formerly with PIRE and current associate research scientist at the CDM Group, Inc, a consulting firm in Bethesda, Md.
>>Read the full study.
NewPublicHealth: What was the scope of your study?
Carol Cannon: We looked at ordinances that create municipal mixed use zoning, and whether these laws seem to have an impact on the potential for walking to destinations.
NPH: In what ways were the study and findings innovative?
Recently, The Atlantic and GlaxoSmithKline hosted “A Conversation on Community Health”—a series of events in three U.S. cities to explore what it takes to create a healthy community. The series brought together leaders from across different sectors to forge a dialogue across different perspectives.
NewPublicHealth recently spoke with Robert Simmons, DrPH, MPH, head of the Master’s Program in Public Health at Thomas Jefferson University who was part of a recent panel. Other speakers on that panel included entertainer and activist Dr. Bill Cosby; Dr. Alvin Poussaint, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School; Dr. Irwin Redlener, Clinical Professor of Population and Family Health at the Columbia University School of Public Health; Diane Cornman-Levy, executive director of the Federation of Neighborhood Centers and Sarah Martinez-Helfman, executive director of the Eagles Youth Partnership.
NewPublicHealth: Tell us a bit about your background.
Dr. Simmons: I’ve worked in public health for 40 years including at the County Health Department in San Diego, the State Health Department in California, and the American Lung Association, where I was program director on issues of asthma and tobacco and cardiopulmonary disease. In the last five and a half years, I’ve been directing the public health program at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.
NPH: What do you think have been key improvements in addressing population health?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships (known as the Partnership Center) engages with community organizations to:
- Strengthen the role of community organizations in health initiatives
- Reduce unintended pregnancies and support maternal and child health
- Promote responsible fatherhood and healthy families
- Foster interfaith dialogue and collaboration with leaders and scholars around the world, and at home
As part of HHS, the Partnership Center is a member agency of the National Prevention Council—a collaboration of 17 federal departments, agencies and offices to help promote prevention and wellness for individuals, families, and communities. The Council members are guided by the National Prevention Strategy, released two years ago by Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, which envisions a prevention-oriented society where all sectors recognize the value of health for individuals, families, and society and work together to achieve better health for all Americans.
>>Read more in our series exploring the National Prevention Strategy, and how each and every sector impacts public health.
NewPublicHealth recently spoke with Acacia Salatti, acting director of the Partnership Center, about their prevention efforts in U.S. communities.
NewPublicHealth: What is the role of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships?
Acacia Salatti: Our office as is an open door for faith and community stakeholders. We see it as a two-way partnership—our center is able to provide information on health and human services programs, and we are able to gain a deeper understanding about what other types of best practices are happening in the community. We are one of 13 faith and neighborhood partnership offices in federal agencies and we all work to together to help faith and community stakeholders create a positive impact in their communities.
NPH: Why is prevention important to the office and how does the office align with the National Prevention Strategy?
While this is the first year that the American Public Health Association has used “return on investment” as the theme for National Public Health Week, which runs through April 7, it’s far from the first time that public health practitioners have made the case to policymakers that the work of public health can save lives and money.
Research on the impact of public health services includes the critical fact that spending just $10 per person in programs aimed at smoking cessation, improved nutrition and better physical fitness could save the nation more than $16 billion a year, according to the Trust for America’s Health. That’s a nearly $6 return for every $1 spent.
Over the last two years, NewPublicHealth has reported frequently on the value of investing in public health. Some of our favorite ROI articles, reports and other resources include:
- >>UPDATE: Trust for America's Health released Investing in America's Health: A State-by-State Look at Public Health Funding and Key Health Facts today. The report examine public health funding and key health facts in states around the country, finding inadequate and cut funding and wide variation in health outcomes by state and county.
- Making the Case for Prevention: A Q&A with James S. Marks, Senior Vice President, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, about the great potential for investing in prevention.
- National Prevention Resources Starter Guide:
A collection of resources that showcase how different fields can work together and take action to prioritize prevention.
- Strategies to Move from Sick Care to Health Care: The Trust for America's Health identifies high-impact steps that the nation can take to prioritize prevention and improve Americans' health.
- Workplace Wellness Perspectives: A Q&A with two very different businesses—one big, one small; one academic, one industrial—on creating healthier workplaces.
- Employers Join Community Health Movement: A Q&A with Trust for America’s Health and the National Business Coalition on Health about the critical role of employers in community prevention efforts.
- Stories of the value of investing in prevention from Wyandotte County, Kan., and Hernando, Miss.
>>Read more on the value of prevention from RWJF.org.
As research builds showing that where you live has a big impact on how healthy you are, organizations and businesses across the country are joining the dialogue on how to create healthier communities. Recently, The Atlantic and GlaxoSmithKline hosted “A Conversation on Community Health”—a series of events in U.S. cities across the country to explore what it takes, to create a healthy community. The series brought together leaders from across different sectors to forge a dialogue across different perspectives.
Jason Q. Purnell, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor at the Brown School of Social Work and Public Health at Washington University in St. Louis, was a panelist at the St. Louis Conversation on Community Health, along with Jackie Joyner-Kersee and others. Recently, Dr. Purnell shared his vision for community health, and the critical role of broad collaboration across sectors, with NewPublicHealth.
NewPublicHealth: What's your vision of a healthy community?
Jason Purnell: My vision for a healthy community includes the elimination of health disparities by race and ethnicity and socioeconomic status. It involves everyone, regardless of zip code or net worth, having the resources to lead full, productive lives. I follow the World Health Organization in its holistic focus on social, emotional, and physical well-being rather than a more narrow focus on disease prevention. A healthy community allows everyone in its boundaries to express their full potential; it allows them to participate in the life of the community, in life itself, to the fullest extent possible.
NPH: Your efforts have included collaboration across psychology, public health, oncology, and primary care. Similarly, the Conversation on Community Health series includes participants from across sectors. Why does public health require such broad collaboration?
Organization and business leaders across the country are realizing that every sector needs to join the fight—or at least the conversation—to create healthier places to live. While altruistic motivations play an important role in this movement, a growing body of research also points to the idea that better health is a major driver for a healthier economy.
Recently, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) partnered with The Atlantic to host “A Conversation on Community Health”—a series of events in U.S. cities across the country to explore what it means, and what it takes, to create a healthy community. NewPublicHealth checked in with GSK’s Senior Vice President and Corporate Medical Director, Robert Carr, MD, MPH, FACPM, to get his take on why businesses should care about community health, and why a broad, cross-sector dialogue is a critical next step.
>>Read more on communities that were recognized for innovations that are improving the health and lives of their residents, with the 2013 RWJF Roadmaps to Health Prize.
NewPublicHealth: What prompted you and GSK to start thinking about community health?
Dr. Carr: As an HR executive and medical director of a global business, I’m acutely aware that employees are—first and foremost—members of families and communities. The places where they live and the choices made by the people around them profoundly influence the health of our employees. We regularly hear that our employees want to know not only what they can do to lead healthier lives but also what we can do as a company to improve the health of their own community. They want us to dig in and find out what’s needed. Similarly, we recently conducted some research about what Americans are looking for more broadly, and we learned that they want the same thing from GSK. They want us to do more in their communities.
We heard them loud and clear, and we are digging in, starting with understanding what it means and what it takes to be a healthy community. Last year we kicked off a program we call “Healthy Communities.” As part of this attempt to learn more, directly from those on the ground in different American cities, we partnered with The Atlantic for “A Conversation on Community Health.”
NPH: What’s the focus of the “Conversation on Community Health” series?
How healthy is your county? Answers are out today in the 2013 County Health Rankings, which examine the health and well-being of people living in nearly every county in the United States and show that how long and well people live depends on multiple factors beyond just their access to medical care. The Rankings allow counties to see what’s making residents sick or healthy and how they compare to other counties in the same state. The County Health Rankings, now in its fourth year, is a joint project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.
“The County Health Rankings can be put to use right away by leaders in government, business, health care, and every citizen motivated to work together to create a culture of health in their community,” said Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, RWJF president and CEO. “The Rankings are driving innovation, unleashing creativity, and inspiring big changes to improve health in communities large and small throughout the country.”
The Rankings examine 25 factors that influence health, including rates of childhood poverty and smoking, obesity levels, teen birth rates, access to physicians and dentists, rates of high school graduation and college attendance, access to healthy foods, levels of physical inactivity, and percentages of children living in single parent households.
Although the Rankings only allow for county-to-county comparisons of ranks within a state, this year’s Rankings show significant new national trends: