Can a Trash Can Reveal a Community’s Values?

Sep 21, 2017, 12:00 PM, Posted by Karabi Acharya

What can the U.S. learn from Copenhagen about designing public spaces to foster healthier, more inclusive communities?

One of the most striking cultural symbols upon arriving in Copenhagen is the sheer number of cyclists navigating city streets—in fact bicycles outnumber cars!

But during my recent visit, it was the trash cans that actually caught my eye.

Just as in many U.S. cities, Copenhagen’s citizens can return used bottles and cans for cash. But, unlike other cities, Copenhagen’s trash cans are equipped with small “deposit” shelves on the outside to place recyclables. This provides an easier, safer, and more sanitary way of collecting discarded cans. Instead of digging through trash cans overflowing with smelly garbage and sharp glass, collectors can easily retrieve bottles and cans from these exterior shelves.

A small feature like this speaks volumes about how our public spaces can support social values like dignity and compassion.

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Home Visits Empower Families to Achieve Brighter Futures

Sep 14, 2017, 1:00 PM, Posted by Claire Gibbons, Martha Davis

Home visiting programs help parents give kids a healthy start. Many families benefit from these services, but millions more could.

It seemed as though the odds were stacked against Leroy Butler from day one. He was born within a housing project to a 15-year-old mother and a father who was convicted of murder shortly after his birth. Fortunately for Leroy, though, his mother was committed to shaping better circumstances for her son. She wisely sought the help of a home visiting program that gave her support and practical advice on how to connect and play with her son, encouraging his social and emotional development, and helping build their close relationship. The home visitor also coached her so she could teach Leroy his letters and numbers to further prepare him for school. As a result, Leroy developed a deep love of learning that kept him off of the streets and ultimately culminated in admission to one of the best liberal arts schools in the nation on an academic scholarship. Leroy credits the home visiting program for dramatically altering his trajectory and saving him from the violence that took the lives of too many friends. Leroy always knew he wanted to give back to his community, and now at 28, he is doing so as a teacher, football coach, mentor to young men, and board member for the same home visiting program that helped him as a kid.  

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What It Takes to Bring Healthier School Foods to 31 Million Kids

Sep 7, 2017, 12:00 PM, Posted by Jasmine Hall Ratliff

Building upon the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project was created to ensure students received healthier meals. Nearly seven years later, it’s left an indelible mark on school cafeterias across the country.

Santa Cruz County is part of California’s central coast, a rich agricultural area where locally grown fruits and vegetables often find their way to area schools. But until recently, Del Mar Elementary School had a hard time taking advantage. Outdated equipment and lack of storage meant that produce would quickly lose its freshness and students would lose interest even faster. Three-quarters of Del Mar students qualify for free or reduced-price meals; they need fruits and vegetables the most, but the school wasn’t properly equipped to serve them.

Things finally changed about three years ago, when the school purchased a new serving line, including heated and chilled cabinets to store fresh food at proper temperatures. The fruits and vegetables not only stayed fresh longer, but Del Mar was able to serve them “buffet style,” which made it more visually appealing for kids and easier for them to choose exactly what they wanted.

In a time of tight budgets, most schools don’t exactly have extra money lying around for cafeteria kitchen equipment. So where did Del Mar get the $20,000 it needed for the new serving line? And how did their success story gain national attention?

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Can Learning Social Skills in School Pay Off Beyond the Classroom?

Sep 5, 2017, 1:00 PM, Posted by Mark Greenberg, Tracy Costigan

Social emotional skills can help students set goals for themselves and build positive relationships with peers. They can also lead to long-term societal benefits that extend far beyond the individual child.

At an elementary school in the Menominee Nation in Wisconsin, the school day starts in an unusual way. Before they do anything else, students sit down at a classroom computer and select the face that best matches how they feel that morning.

If they’re feeling upbeat, they pick a green, smiling face. If they’re upset about something, there’s a red sad face. And if they feel somewhere in the middle there’s a yellow neutral face. This exercise helps these students develop self-awareness and emotional management skills. It also helps teachers recognize which students are having a tough day and where they might need help.

Ryan Coffey, a teacher and counselor at the Wisconsin school, calls this simple check-in an incredible tool that “can change the whole day.”

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Helping Students Save For—and Stay in—College

Aug 30, 2017, 12:00 PM, Posted by James McGowan

A higher education degree has a big impact on future health. Here’s how one man is leveraging his personal experience to help students pursue a brighter future.

Like many of the college-bound students I counsel at Normandy High School in Wellston, Mo., I was a first-generation college student. Thrilled to head off to Georgia Tech on a full scholarship, I had no idea I wasn’t actually getting a full ride with all costs paid for. Suddenly, I found myself on the hook for room and board, books, and other expenses. I took out loans, but they weren’t enough. I maxed out my credit cards. It took me years to pay off the debt.

I share this story with my students as a cautionary tale and to underscore the value of Viking Advantage, the college savings and preparation program they participate in. Each student in the program gets a college savings account called an Individual Development Account (IDA). For every dollar they save for college, up to $500, they get an additional $3 from my organization, Beyond Housing, and its funding partners—for a maximum total of $2,000. When students head to college, the money is sent directly to the college bookstore or cashier’s office for tuition, textbooks, dorm deposits, room and board, and supplies they need for classes.

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How Lessons From Abroad Are Uplifting Youth In the United States

Aug 23, 2017, 12:00 PM, Posted by Jennifer Ng'andu

Creative programs in Latin America are inspiring U.S. communities to pursue similar approaches that connect young adults to education and employment.

Like many high school graduates in Brazil, Caroline was eager to find a job. She desperately needed money to continue her studies and pursue her dream of becoming an engineer. But two years after graduating, she was still unemployed. Caroline eventually managed to improve her job prospects in an unlikely way—through drawing, dance and breath work.

Intent on breaking free from a family history of women who weren’t able to get good jobs or finish high school, Caroline discovered a job training program run by Rede Cidadã (The Citizen Network). The non-profit organization connects youth to jobs and apprenticeships throughout Brazil, where the youth unemployment rate is nearly 25 percent.

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Honoring Tradition to Support Tribal Health

Aug 3, 2017, 10:00 AM, Posted by Jamie Judkins

Twenty-five years ago, the future of the Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe was in jeopardy. Today, they are looking at seven generations: back three generations, the present, and forward three generations. Here is how they are ‘pulling together’ for health.

My tribe sees life within the frame of seven generations: The current generation is shaped by the experience of people three generations before and tasked with setting the course for three generations to come.

That’s why I summoned the stamina needed to paddle a canoe for eight days last summer in a tradition that binds our generations. I joined thousands of men, women, teens and children from my tribe—Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe—as well as our neighbors from the Chinook Indian Nation, to paddle together in a dugout canoe for 200 miles. It was an annual journey with deep roots in our culture and history. I learned what it really means to pull together. You get into a rhythm with your team, and you move forward.

That’s what we’re trying to do for our community’s health, too.

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Five Nurses Share Why They Pursued Research Careers

Jul 19, 2017, 10:00 AM, Posted by Maryjoan Ladden, Susan Hassmiller

Schools with research-focused PhD programs in nursing are now eligible to apply for the Future of Nursing Scholars program. Five trailblazing researchers from the program share how their diverse careers are transforming health care and why others should join them.

 

As a nurse practitioner at a community health center on Chicago’s West Side, Jewel Scott loved her job, even though helping her patients heal sometimes felt like an uphill battle. Many of her mostly African-American or Latino patients suffered from type 2 diabetes, yet couldn’t afford insulin or struggled to keep appointments due to jobs without flexible schedules. Most had endured difficult childhoods marked by poverty and violence.

One such patient changed the path of Scott’s life. A young woman came in with symptoms of a urinary tract infection. During the visit, Scott discovered that patient had untreated type 2 diabetes—just like her father—and a dangerously high blood sugar level.

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How Multi-Sector Health Partnerships Evolve

Jul 10, 2017, 2:00 PM, Posted by Emmy Ganos

Strong partnerships spanning an array of sectors—including public health, housing, education, transportation and others—are the bedrocks of healthy communities. How do they evolve and what makes them successful?

When Mercer Medical Center in Trenton, New Jersey, planned to close its doors more than 10 years ago, many in the community were alarmed by the likely impact on health services available to the city’s large, low-income population. Encouraged by Mayor Douglas Palmer and the State Department of Health, two hospitals, a federally-qualified health center, and the city health department came together to consider how best to meet the needs of Trenton residents.

At the time, many of these providers knew one another more as competitors than as collaborators. But they recognized a shared commitment to Trenton’s most vulnerable residents and set aside potential rivalries to form the Trenton Health Team. Today, that team links more than 60 behavioral, social service, educational, and faith-based organizations to pursue better community health outcomes.

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Ending Homelessness, One Person at a Time

Jun 22, 2017, 12:00 PM, Posted by Maggie Willis

Santa Monica has been one of the first U.S. cities to use homeless statistics in identifying those who most urgently need care and services. They share five key lessons from their efforts.

When people think of us, many envision a wealthy beach community dotted with hip boutiques and bistros overlooking beautiful sunsets.

But here in Santa Monica we face stark, complicated issues—including homelessness—like any other city. In fact after seven years of stability, our homeless population spiked significantly this year (2017) to 921. This is a 26 percent increase over 2016. It’s part of a regional homelessness crisis in Los Angeles County, which also saw a 23 percent increase that stems from a lack of affordable housing.

Believe it or not, the problem was once even worse. In 2005, we counted nearly 2,000 people experiencing homelessness!

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