Boosting Health In Everyone’s Hometown

There’s more to living long and well than medical care.


Published:

Good health means more than good medical care. Many other things affect how long we live and how healthy we feel—conditions in our housing and neighborhoods, the social and physical environment of our communities, economic opportunities and the levels of stress in our lives. 

According to a landmark University of Wisconsin study, the state of our overall health is attributable to four major factors:

• 20 percent—access to and quality of clinical health care

• 40 percent—social and economic factors in our lives

• 30 percent—individual factors and behaviors

• 10 percent—the physical environment in which we live

The good news is that we can improve these factors to boost everyone’s health, no matter where they live. Last year, Kaiser Permanente and Project for Public Spaces released a detailed report of peer-reviewed research making the case that healthy communities foster healthy people.

Addressing these issues is the point of a Centers for Disease Control-funded initiative to improve community health—the National Implementation and Dissemination for Chronic Disease Prevention program, known as Partnering4Health.

As part of the project, the American Planning Association, the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE), the National WIC Association, Directors of Health Promotion and Education and American Heart Association/American Stroke Association are using community-based solutions to boost health for Americans of all incomes, ethnicities and regions.

They are working to reduce a 21st century epidemic—preventable chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis and many forms of cancer—by helping communities increase physical activity, nutritious eating, breastfeeding and other healthy ways of living.

Recently more than 200 community leaders from among the 97 communities participating in the program came together in Denver to share best practices and success stories.

“There’s more to health than great medical care,” declared Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, Chief Medical Officer for Prevention of the America Heart Association at the meeting.

A spate of recent medical research shows that your zip code can be a more accurate measure of your prospects for a healthy life than your genetic code. Sanchez pointed out that people living in certain low-income, racially segregated areas of Chicago live 16 years less, on average, than those in affluent city neighborhoods because of disparities in income, employment, social support and education.

More real-world evidence for this place-based approach to health was found in the stories that community health advocates brought to Denver from their hometowns:

Kenosha, Wisconsin

A prescription for better health

Recent medical studies suggest that healthy habits can be as effective as some medicines in reducing and preventing many prevalent diseases. Concerned that Kenosha’s health statistics rank among the lowest in the state, local Haitian-American physician Junith Thompson worked with local public health groups to design RX pads prescribing patients to eat more fresh vegetables, take up new physical activities, set aside daily time for reflection and other positive lifestyle changes. Distributed by the Kenosha Health Improvement Project, they are now used at a number of clinics and health agencies in southeastern Wisconsin.

Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana

Listen to the music

“In Louisiana, you have to reach people through their culture,” explains Mary Schultheis, project supervisor for Healthy Plaquemines Parish Now.  In her community, just outside New Orleans, that means music. So she adapted popular songs into public service announcements that promote breastfeeding. A new recording of the classic Mardi Gras song “Iko Iko,” now trumpets, “Hey, now. Hey, now. Mothers are breastfeeding!” New lyrics to the ‘70s soul tune “Mr. Big Stuff,” shout out: “It’s the right stuff. We’re trying to make healthy babies.” Another thrust of the organization is to connect more people to existing resources for healthier living such as WIC programs, farmers markets, food shelves and faith-based health organizations.

East St. Louis, Illinois

Health on the corner

Many residents of this predominantly African-American city buy their groceries at corner stores. That’s why Make Health Happen!—a coalition of health, government, business and civic groups—engaged six shop owners to stock more nutritious foods. One store was able to add a cooler for fresh fruits and veggies thanks to a donation from the regional YMCA. Another worked with a local graffiti artist to create a mural showcasing the store’s new selection of healthy offerings. Lowering the cost of healthy foods through coupons accepted at groceries and farmers markets also boosts wholesome eating throughout this city of 27,000.

Loudoun County, Virginia

Water as one answer to childhood obesity

Since many kids swill sugar-laden beverages throughout the day, Loudoun County’s health department introduced “It’s Water Time” to encourage elementary and Head Start students to drink more water instead of juice or sweetened beverages. Captain Hydro, a flying penguin toting a water bottle, extols water as the best thirst-quencher in coloring books and other materials for kids and their parents. Promoting breastfeeding, offering healthier options in vending machines and increasing access to nutritious food are other strategies being used to reduce childhood obesity in this suburban community.

Wichita Falls, Texas

Making WIC easier to use

The number of people involved in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) supplemental nutrition program was falling in Wichita County, Texas, which potentially means a less healthy community. A big part of the problem was confusion among both shoppers and grocery store clerks about what foods were eligible for purchase with the benefits. The county public health office and local WIC office worked together training clerks about the program and distributed handy shopping guides to WIC participants.  Transportation was another problem, especially in reaching a local farmers market where special deals were available with WIC coupons. So now fruit and vegetable vendors are also setting up shop at the local WIC office where women enroll and visit for benefits.

Tattnall County, Georgia

A friendly place for breastfeeding

Mommy & Me, Healthy as Can Be is a new program to make breastfeeding easier and more acceptable throughout this rural county. More than 50 local businesses have become breastfeeding friendly locations thanks to a joint effort by the Southeast Health District and the Partner for Health program at Meadows Regional Medical Center.  The medical center also works more closely with the area WIC office now.

More Success Stories—From Michigan To Texas

That’s not all. Trailnet is pursuing an ambitious plan to connect St. Louis with a network of safe, comfortable, protected bikeways, which will encourage people of all ages, incomes and physical shapes to bike around the city. Tarrant County WIC in Fort Worth sponsors a breastfeeding bootcamp for new moms, with personal instruction. Kansas City, Missouri, features mobile markets, which bring healthy food to underserved neighborhoods by bus with Rollin’ Grocer and with Truman Medical Center’s Mobile Market. Choosing Health in Lake County—serving a rural area in Western Michigan where 51 percent of kids live in poverty—aims to make “the healthy choice the easy choice” with farmers markets, increased access to WIC programs and healthy food options labeled in groceries and restaurants.

While funding for this CDC program ends in late 2017, “there’s no sense that the work is over for these groups,” noted Elaine Auld, CEO of SOPHE, who was one of the Denver event’s organizers. “People have really rolled up their sleeves so that many of these projects will continue, funded by other sources such as hospitals with their community benefits work.”

A number of pressing public health issues surfaced at the Denver conference, which will influence the ongoing work of this emerging healthy communities movement around the country.

“Poor health cannot be explained just by individual behavior,” noted Monte Roulier, president of Community Initiatives, which helped put on the conference. “Place really does matter.  How do we change physical, economic, social and cultural environments to improve people’s health?”

Inequality cannot be overlooked as a health issue. Equity came up often from speakers and in audience discussions.  “These conversations are daunting. It’s easy to say, ‘what can I possibly do in the face of all this? How does a farmers market fix it?” said David Gibbs, a senior associate at Community Initiatives, who is African-American and called the conversations at this meeting notable in their depth.  Many participants from low-income communities emphasized that, yes, they need more community gardens, bike trails, and good food options, but unemployment, poverty, crime, and gentrification also impact health issues too.

The action is local now” was a common refrain heard throughout the four-day conference as news from Washington, D.C. foretold massive cuts in domestic programs, including health. “There is a positive spirit in communities that we can still get things done,” Auld observed. 

Local success depends on deep community engagement. The expertise and resources of national organizations is critical, but what’s most important is that local people feel equipped to make their communities healthier.  When they feel ownership of these projects, the results are more far-reaching and lasting.

The power of story.  While scientific evidence is mounting in favor of this community-powered approach to health, real-life stories of everyday people in a wide variety of communities are just as important in capturing the attention of the American public—not to mention healthcare professionals, government agencies and funding institutions.

Jay Walljasper, Senior Fellow at On the Commons and editor of OnTheCommons.org, created OTC’s book All That We Share: A Field Guide to the Commons. A speaker, communications strategist and writer and editor, he chronicles stories from around the world that point us toward a more equitable, sustainable and enjoyable future. He is author of The Great Neighborhood Book and a senior associate at the urban affairs consortium Citiscope. Walljasper also writes a column about city life for Shareable.net and is a Senior Fellow at Project for Public Spaces and Augsburg College’s Sabo Center for Citizenship and Learning. For more of his work, see JayWalljasper.com.

This article was republished from On the Commons.

See also:
An Easier Way To Get To Universal Health Care
Why There’s More To Fixing Health Care Than The Health Care Laws

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

November 20, 2019

After retrograding since Halloween, mental Mercury turns Direct this afternoon. The Winged Messenger’s changes of direction can befuddle some minds. New ideas and points of view may defy convention. With Mercury ensconced in Scorpio, previously secret…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

November 2019

“Bringing Energy into Matter” Learn basics of Tachyon, Zero Point Energy and Quantum Physics Tachyonized products and healing tools for purchase Participate in a seeing...

Cost: Free (preregistration is required)

Where:
The Sanctuary for Celestial Empowerment
10 Grassmere Avenue
Suite #300
West Hartford, CT  06110
View map »


Sponsor: Psychotherapy Healing Services, LLC
Telephone: 860-798-6176
Contact Name: Celeste E. Mattingly, LCSW
Website »

More information

Beaver Moon: Herbs for Aches and Pains Using Anti-Inflammatory Herbs. Refreshments served. To RSVP contact herbalist Rachel Ross, RN CNM. Visit our Facebook page for the latest...

Where:
Hillside Herbals
Jefferson, MA


Telephone: (508) 847-8615
Website »

More information

Come shine with us! Join us in harmony and in our goal to bring the light of Spiritualism forward to all those who are searching.

Where:
VFW Post 2597
775 Boston Rd, Rt 3A
Billerica, MA
View map »


Sponsor: The Spiritualist Fellowship Church Of New England
Website »

More information

A beautiful collection of messages from Jeshua Ben Joseph (Jesus) that will transform your life, as it did his. Coming together to study these teachings, to ponder, to savor, to deepen our...

Cost: $25 per class

Where:
Heart and Soul Holistic Healing Center
130 Massapoag Avenue
Sharon, MA  02067
View map »


Sponsor: Heart and Soul Holistic
Telephone: 781-258-9942
Contact Name: Barbara Ann Strassman
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Give Yourself the gift of Reiki this holiday season! Have you always wanted to learn Reiki but didn’t want to commit to a full day workshop?  This is the class for you! Reiki...

Cost: $175

Where:
Center for Inner Wellness
26B Main street
Chester, MA  01011
View map »


Sponsor: Center for Inner Wellness
Telephone: 413-315-1133
Contact Name: Maureen Suriner
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Atend a public hearing for S665 at the Massachusetts State House to protect holistic practitioners. This is the second bill that urgently needs your attention now. S665 will provide a safe...

Where:
Massachusetts State House
24 Beacon St
Rooms A1 and A2
Boston, MA  02133
View map »

More information

With Peyton Pugmire, spiritual intuitive and Certified Angel Card Reader Tuesdays, 9/24, 10/22, 11/19, 12/17, 6pm–8pm You are intuitive beyond belief. This is your soul’s...

Cost: $40

Where:
Creative Spirit
80 Washington Street
Marblehead, MA  01945
View map »


Telephone: 781-797-0389
Contact Name: Creative Spirit
Website »

More information

Give Yourself the gift of Reiki this holiday season! Have you always wanted to learn Reiki but didn’t want to commit to a full day workshop?  This is the class for you! Reiki...

Cost: $175

Where:
Center for Inner Wellness
26B Main street
Chester, MA  01011
View map »


Sponsor: Center for Inner Wellness
Telephone: 413-315-1133
Contact Name: Maureen Suriner
Website »

More information

Free Evidence-Based Holistic Health Education Program at Wilbraham Senior Center The H.E.A.R.T. Program® (Health Empowerment and Real Transformation), created and instructed by Michelle...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilbraham Senior Center
45 Post Office Park, #4502
Wilbraham, MA  01095
View map »


Sponsor: Harmony Way
Telephone: 413-636-2475
Contact Name: Michelle Caron
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Give Yourself the gift of Reiki this holiday season! Have you always wanted to learn Reiki but didn’t want to commit to a full day workshop?  This is the class for you! Reiki...

Cost: $175

Where:
Center for Inner Wellness
26B Main street
Chester, MA  01011
View map »


Sponsor: Center for Inner Wellness
Telephone: 413-315-1133
Contact Name: Maureen Suriner
Website »

More information

The Fertility Awareness Meetup provides women with an opportunity to learn about and discuss natural birth control options and fertility. This is a space to connect with peers, access information,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Cambridge Women's Center
46 Pleasant St
Cambridge, MA  02139
View map »


Sponsor: AC Fertility Awareness
Telephone: 617-899-7624
Contact Name: Anna Churchill

More information

The online dating scene can be exciting, overwhelming, and also annoying. However, it can truly be worth the hassle if you end up finding your ideal match! Just like Kerri did! Come to this...

Cost: $25

Where:
Awaken Holistic Counseling Services
2 Liberty St., Unit 2L
Newburyport, MA  01950
View map »


Sponsor: Awaken Holistic Counseling Services, LLC
Telephone: 978-255-7893
Contact Name: Kerri Morrison
Website »

More information

Broga® is an officially licensed brand of fitness infused yoga geared for men but open to all. With instructors around the world, Chuck was trained by the brands creator and went onto work as...

Cost: $20

Where:
SSFIT STudio
339 Boston Post Rd, Suite 6A
Sudury, MA  01776
View map »


Sponsor: SSFIT STUDIO
Telephone: 508-904-7171
Contact Name: Steven
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Come detox, relax and renew yourself for the fall in our sanctuary! We have an intimate gathering of great readers and healers providing services at sampler rates to enjoy their services while...

Cost: $60: 3 Pack Service Special; $25: Single Service

Where:
Healing Power Of Flowers—Heaven and Earth
68 Stiles Rd
Salem, NH  03079
View map »


Sponsor: The Healing Power of Flowers - Heaven and Earth
Telephone: 603-275-7688
Contact Name: Stacey Smith
Website »

More information

Dying to Be Me by Anita Moorjani (My journey from cancer, to near death, to true healing) In this truly inspirational memoir, Anita Moorjani relates how, after fighting cancer for almost four...

Cost: Free

Where:
Open Circle Acupuncture & Healing
411 West Main Street, Suite 2R (rear of building)
Northborough, MA  01532
View map »


Sponsor: Open Circle Acupuncture & Healing
Telephone: 508-393-1212
Contact Name: Kim Flaherty
Website »

More information

Give Yourself the gift of Reiki this holiday season! Have you always wanted to learn Reiki but didn’t want to commit to a full day workshop?  This is the class for you! Reiki...

Cost: $175

Where:
Center for Inner Wellness
26B Main street
Chester, MA  01011
View map »


Sponsor: Center for Inner Wellness
Telephone: 413-315-1133
Contact Name: Maureen Suriner
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Give Yourself the gift of Reiki this holiday season! Have you always wanted to learn Reiki but didn’t want to commit to a full day workshop?  This is the class for you! Reiki...

Cost: $175

Where:
Center for Inner Wellness
26B Main street
Chester, MA  01011
View map »


Sponsor: Center for Inner Wellness
Telephone: 413-315-1133
Contact Name: Maureen Suriner
Website »

More information

Four week series for girls ages 11 and up with Leigh Sloss This series of classes will focus on some of the most effective yoga and mindfulness skills for reducing stress and anxiety.  In a...

Cost: Series: $75; Drop in rate $20

Where:
YogaLife Institute of NH
6 Chestnut Street
Lower Level
Exeter, NH  03833
View map »


Sponsor: YogaLife Institute of NH
Contact Name: Alice Bentley
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Give Yourself the gift of Reiki this holiday season! Have you always wanted to learn Reiki but didn’t want to commit to a full day workshop?  This is the class for you! Reiki...

Cost: $175

Where:
Center for Inner Wellness
26B Main street
Chester, MA  01011
View map »


Sponsor: Center for Inner Wellness
Telephone: 413-315-1133
Contact Name: Maureen Suriner
Website »

More information

Learn to overcome spinal tensions through therapeutic postures, designed to decompress your spine and relieve pain. Taught by a certified yoga therapist, classes bring you through poses...

Cost: 5/$50

Where:
Bliss Through Yoga
484 Bedford St
East Bridgewater, MA  02333
View map »


Telephone: 508-331-3564
Contact Name: Janice O'Brien
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags