A Healthier Denver

Apr 29, 2014, 8:55 AM, Posted by Shale Wong

Group members of Building a Healthier Denver Members of the Collective - GlaxoSmithKline

I live in Denver. I work in Denver. And as a pediatrician, I’ve dedicated my life to the health of Denver’s kids. It is remarkable to me how connected our health is to our community. In Denver, we have some of the finest health care in the state, yet more and more of our kids are struggling to maintain a healthy weight. It takes much more than having great hospitals in our community for our kids to live a healthy life.

If we want all our kids to grow up healthy in Denver and throughout the United States, we must recognize all of the elements that affect their well-being. That means ensuring our communities are safe, with strong education and ample access to healthy foods and recreational spaces. And it means addressing poverty whether it is tucked into pockets or widespread in our communities.

This connection between our health and our community was affirmed by the release of the latest County Health Rankings and Roadmaps—an initiative of the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The latest installment showed that those of us who live in the least healthy communities in America are twice as likely to live shorter lives as those who live in healthy communities. And these least healthy communities have twice as many kids living in poverty.

Bottom line: where we live matters to our health. That is why I was pleased to participate in a recent event with the global healthcare company GSK, along with LiveWell Colorado, and seven other Denver-based nonprofits that are working together for a healthier Denver through healthy eating and active living programming. Watch the event highlight reel.

The event brought together policy-makers like our Mayor, Michael Hancock and my City Councilman, Albus Brooks, with leaders in nutrition and physical activity and community members to launch this project to improve the health of children in three Denver neighborhoods: Globeville, Elyria-Swansea and Northeast Denver.

There are a few hallmarks to this project that are especially promising. First, instead of confronting community challenges with a patchwork of disjointed, siloed programs, this group is working together with a thoughtful, collaborative approach to achieve collective impact.

Second, instead of nonprofit leaders coming up with what they think will make kids healthier, the kids themselves will identify their solutions. The most compelling youth-led concepts will be funded and implemented, creating sensible sustainable solutions for a healthier Denver.

And third, a robust evaluation of the program and the partnerships will uncover best practices that can be replicated throughout Colorado and across the country.

Learn more about this Denver partnership funded through a $500,000 grant from GSK, and watch this video to see what it will mean to the children and community leaders.  

Do you know how healthy your community is?  Find out now.

About the author

Shale Wong, MD, is a pediatrician and associate professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. She is a senior program consultant for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, working to reverse the trend of childhood obesity and helping to bridge health and health care. Shale has lived in Denver more than 20 years enjoying Colorado with her husband and two daughters.