Nov 14, 2019, 2:00 PM, Posted by
Katharine Ferguson, Katrina Badger
It’s time to think differently about investing in rural America and the way we approach health and equity across its diverse communities. New research and resources show the critical connection between health, rural community and economic development.
Next Thursday, November 21, is National Rural Health Day. You might expect the paragraphs that follow to be about hospital closures or opioids, struggling dairy farmers and falling life expectancy among rural women. These phenomena are true, so we could do just that. However this National Rural Health Day we want to challenge conventional wisdom and prompt fresh thinking about rural America, the drivers of health, and the role of community and economic development in both. From what we are learning, this broader lens is central to realizing health equity and a better rural futures.
In our predominantly urban nation, the words “rural America” often conjure images of farm country, small towns and white people living in places that once boomed and have since busted. But the real rural America is far more diverse and complex. Dr. Veronica Womack, a political scientist and advocate for black farmers, whose work has helped bring new research and investment to her rural region, is case-in-point. Womack grew up in Greenville, Alabama—population 8,000—which is part of the “Black Belt,” a largely rural region in the coastal low-land south where black folks outnumber white folks. Economic opportunity is hard to come by—and health suffers as a result—in this region where poverty, racist policies and discrimination along with systemic disinvestment persist.
All the same, Dr. Veronika Womak grew up with the idea that you give of what you have, to help those around you. No matter if what you have is not much. In Dr. Womak’s words: “If you’re not willing to share it and work for the betterment of the community, then you know, why even have it?” Womak’s experience growing up with her single mom, who worked as a nurse and spent her weekends bringing medicine and other care to elders around the community, didn’t jive with how the nation viewed her region and her people. Where others saw deficits, Womak could see assets—people willing to work hard and support each other, strong ties, and innovative ideas to get things done.
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Aug 15, 2019, 10:15 AM, Posted by
This community development advocate has learned that great things happen when residents are invested in, and empowered to, change their world.
My hometown of Eatonville, Florida, is known as “the town that Freedom built,” and for good reason: It was founded in 1887 by black freedmen on land they bought from a rare white landowner willing to sell large tracts to black people. Today, it’s the oldest historically black incorporated town in America.
This place exists and has survived because of citizen leadership, vision, and persistence. Many people here, like me, have multigenerational ties to the town, and all of us take deep pride in Eatonville’s role in history. Many people who live or work here, or attend one of our many churches, have contributed to building a Culture of Health in town and winning recognition for our efforts from the state of Florida and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. But the spirit of collaboration that made that possible didn’t happen by accident. Eatonville has proactively empowered citizens to become leaders. We value the voices and contributions of all of our citizens.
This is how real systemic change happens.
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Jun 6, 2019, 1:00 PM, Posted by
Jaclyn Wallen, Vincent Acevez
This 2018 Culture of Health Prize winner helps officers and the people they serve deal with the ‘bad things’ they witness and experience every day.
A veteran police officer in Cicero, Illinois, is quick with an answer when the therapist asks him: “What’s the worst thing you’ve witnessed on the job?”
Instantly, it’s 2010, an icy Valentine’s Day, and Officer Joseph Melone is staring in horror as flames engulf a three-story house. Melone is an arson specialist, and when the fire subsides, it’s his job to pick through the rubble. Seven people are missing. The oldest is 20; the youngest is that man’s newborn.
Melone finds the remains of the three-day-old baby.
“The 911 call from inside that place will haunt me until the day I die,” the 47-year-old Melone, now a sergeant, recalls. “You can hear the fire crackling around the caller and nobody could get in there.”
The story spills out from Melone as part of a training to give officers with the Cicero Police Department better tools for dealing with trauma in the lives of crime victims, as well as their own. The 8-hour course was built from scratch and tailored to the needs of the Cicero Police Department by local nonprofit staff from Youth Crossroads and the domestic violence agency Sarah’s Inn, as well as a psychologist from the local school district.
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Apr 4, 2019, 2:00 PM, Posted by
Monica Hobbs Vinluan, Shauneequa Owusu
For far too long laws and policies have been used to promote the health of some, but not all. A new guide from ChangeLab Solutions puts the blueprint for change in everyone’s hands.
Change is not easy and it takes time. It can be especially challenging when we’re working to change policies and systems that have been in place for decades. But we know change is necessary because many people in America still face discrimination, live in poverty, and do not have the basics they need to be healthy.
We also know that some places are making progress to replace policies that are driving inequities with new policies that can help close health gaps. Places like Newark, N.J., where a unique collaboration led by the state’s largest health care system is accelerating a movement to transform the community’s food system.
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Mar 28, 2019, 2:00 PM, Posted by
A safe, secure home is where health begins. To build more equitable, healthier communities, we need to boost people’s ability to afford a good place to live.
A roof over our heads. Shelter from the storm. A beautiful day in the neighborhood. Home is where the heart is.
None of these phrases directly talks about health. But in our common language, we clearly recognize the centrality to our well-being and our happiness of the homes and neighborhoods in which we live.
In fact, there is a strong and growing evidence base linking our homes to our health. Where we can afford to live impacts where we live—and our neighborhood’s location can make it easier or harder to get a quality education and earn living wages, to afford to eat nutritious food, and to enjoy active lifestyles. And when we’re spending too much of our income on rent or a mortgage, that leaves little to pay for transportation to work or the doctor or to put healthy food on the table for our kids.
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Feb 19, 2019, 3:00 PM, Posted by
National Civic League
The Southeastern San Diego Cardiac Disparities Project works with faith organizations to provide holistic heart health programs in African-American communities. Its first steps are confronting racism and building trust.
Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on the National Civic League website. We are reposting it with permission this February which is Black History Month as well as American Heart Month.
The Southeastern San Diego Cardiac Disparities Project is improving the cardiovascular health of black residents in South San Diego by altering two fundamental systems that can influence their health: faith organizations and health care providers.
Elizabeth Bustos, director of community engagement for Be There San Diego, and Reverend Gerald Brown, executive director at United African American Ministerial Action Council are leading the effort. They are recipients of the 2017 Award for Health Equity, which was presented to them by the National Civic League and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The Award honors leaders who are changing systems and showing how solutions at the community level can lead to health equity.
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Jun 18, 2018, 11:00 AM, Posted by
George Hobor, Laura Leviton
A surgeon in Cardiff, Wales, who regularly treated victims of violence, discovered that many cases went unreported. He devised a model for collecting data and collaborating with both law enforcement and community to predict and prevent violence. This approach is now taking root here in the United States.
Weekend after weekend, the wave of emergency department (ED) patients would arrive. Oral and maxillofacial surgeon Jonathan Shepard would treat shattered jaws, knife wounds and other facial injuries at the hospital in Cardiff, Wales. These injuries stemmed from brawls in bars and nightclubs where broken glasses and bottles were wielded as weapons. Strangely, Dr. Shepard found that only 23 percent of these assaults treated in the hospital were reported to law enforcement.
Harnessing the Power of Data for Violence Prevention
Determined to find a way to stem the violence, Dr. Shepard mobilized health care providers, law enforcement heads, city officials and other local leaders in working together to address what was happening within their community.
Local hospitals agreed to gather basic anonymized information from each assault victim admitted to the emergency department, including the specific location of the violent incident, time of day, and weapon involved. They removed patient identifiers and shared the anonymous data with local law enforcement officials, who combined those data with their own records.
With these data, police were able to map when and where violence might happen, and concentrate resources on hotspot locations such as specific streets, businesses, schools, or transit stations, and during particular times of the week, to help prevent incidents.
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Mar 7, 2018, 11:00 AM, Posted by
A $1.4 million funding opportunity is available for community leaders, organizations, and researchers to help us understand the combination of factors that lead to resilient communities.
Nearly six months ago three catastrophic hurricanes devastated parts of the United States and her territories, and the lives of millions of people in America. Although they were all Category 4+ storms, the impact and aftermath have been markedly different. While the recovery is ongoing, many communities in Texas and Florida are finally returning to normal life: schools are open, transportation systems are running, and homes are being rebuilt. By stark contrast, in parts of Puerto Rico, people are still struggling to survive without clean water and electricity.
What accounts for these differences in recovery? There is plenty of conjecture: people point to the level of damage inflicted, soundness of infrastructure, the condition of the local economy, as well as institutionalized discrimination.
Disasters also come in many forms—natural disasters, to be sure, but also chronic poverty, broad lack of access to health care, and other hardships a community faces. When these adverse factors co-exist, recovery is exponentially harder.
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