Communities Putting Prevention to Work: NewPublicHealth Q&A with Ursula Bauer

Nov 2, 2011, 4:18 PM, Posted by NewPublicHealth

The CDC’s Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) program is focused on preventing chronic disease by producing improved, sustainable health outcomes through policy, systems, and environmental level changes.

The CPPW communities are funded under a two-year cooperative agreement to implement evidence-based strategies that are expected to have lasting effects. Representatives of several communities spoke today at the APHA annual meeting about projects underway. Schools districts in Sheridan, Colo., for example, are using CPPW grants to increase consumption of healthy foods, move toward healthier foods for school events and increase physical activity among students.

NewPublicHealth spoke with Ursula Bauer, PhD, MPH, and director of the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, who moderated the CPPW session.

NewPublicHealth: Have the grantees been able to break down silos to partner across sectors in communities?

Dr. Ursula Bauer: Communities have really done a terrific job at that. I would give credit for that to the community grantees and their initiatives but also to the model that we’ve put together which requires a leadership team that’s multi-sectoral, a coalition that’s multi-sectoral, and we require that entire leadership team to come to what we call action institutes.

So, you’ve got your city planning representative, your economic development representative, your housing representative, and even someone potentially from your local newspaper, and others depending on the project. You know, the whole variety of people in your community you need around the table. Those ten or so people that form your leadership team come to that action institute, so they’re all hearing the same messages from our top-notch trainers and from our CDC staff.

NPH: What is the role of law as a tool for public health in the CPPW grants?

Dr. Bauer: Policy is key, I think, to the success of chronic disease prevention and health promotion. Policy can be a legislatively enacted law, can be a regulation, or can be something that’s voluntarily adopted by a jurisdiction, by an employer, by a school district and so on. Of course, we’re a federal agency giving out federal dollars, so we don’t do any lobbying to promote the passage or the change of any particular law, but we do try to do a lot of education around the chronic disease burden, the unmet need, and what the evidence shows the solutions are so that decision-makers can make the best decisions for the right policies for their communities.

NPH: There’s a massive amount of learning going on as a result of the CPPW initiative. How are you communicating the results within grantees and beyond grantees?

Dr. Bauer: That’s something we continue to work on. One of the things we did with the Communities Putting Prevention to Work Program was establish mentoring relationships among communities, and we actually funded five CPPW grantees to be mentors to other CPPW grantees, and that was a competitive solicitation. We have mentors in farm to school programs, or farm to institution programs, we have mentors that are particularly adept at working in rural areas or working in urban areas, mentors that are focusing on tobacco or focusing on nutrition and physical activity and so on. So we’re really trying to develop those networks among the grantees themselves.

And each grantee is responsible for some evaluation of their own program. So nationally, we will have a report, and we’re encouraging our grantees to tell their story too. They can do that through publications in peer review journals, but they can also do that through success stories that they share with their elected leaders, digital stories that end up on YouTube or get used by community members so that we can show the power of prevention and the impact that these dollars are having in communities across the country.

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This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.