After falling in annual health rankings over the years, the City of Danville knew they had to make a change. They formed The Health Collaborative (THC) to take a long-term approach to addressing the community’s health needs. This organization focuses on policies, systems, and environmental changes, and the social determinants of health. To address health in their community, collaborative members participated in idea-generating activities, reviewed existing data, evidence and case studies, went on site visits to other communities, conducted focus groups, and prioritized strategies.
As they made decisions together, they evaluated strategies based on three guiding principles – health impact, health equity, and feasibility. The City of Danville has aligned its goals and investment strategy with the goals of The Health Collaborative. The city requires plans for Danville to be informed by the Health Equity Report. These steps form the basis of Danville’s three highlighted projects.
Youth Health Equity Leadership Institute
The Youth Health Equity Leadership Institute (YHELI) is a personal development program for young people in Danville. It works to empower students to graduate high school on-time and develop an action plan for their future.
The program provides leadership development, critical thinking skills, mentoring opportunities, college preparation, resume building, and financial planning skills, while maintaining a focus on personal and community health.
Establishing a solid community foundation has been a key to the program’s success through partnerships with organizations including Danville Public Schools (DPS), the Pittsylvania-Danville Health Department, and THC. Their advisory board is also an extensive and collaborative group, consisting of over 47 community partners who meet monthly to develop strategies to promote education and health equity.
Since 2015, YHELI has developed 145 student-leaders who have worked with thousands of at-risk youth every year through volunteering and mentoring.
While the YHELI leaders help the community, they are also learning to help themselves. From the most recent annual survey, 92.8% of YHELI students reported that their grades within the past 12 months were mostly A’s and B’s.
Long-term, Danville’s YHELI will continue to achieve positive outcomes for the community by growing on-time high school graduation rates. Considering education is one of the strongest predictors of health, improvement in on-time graduation rates will also improve the community’s health.
Bringing Fitness and Nutrition to Danville Residents
In community input sessions, the City of Danville found that residents had the desire to improve their overall health, but barriers such as transportation and finances often limited participation. To address these needs, Fit Mobile was created to offer onsite fitness and nutrition classes to residents.
Fit Mobile is a collaboration between Danville’s Parks and Recreation, Averett University, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Danville Redevelopment and Housing Authority, and local healthcare organizations PATHs and Gateway Health.
Free fitness and nutrition education classes are taught by Averett University students at various sites in the community. Parks and Recreation staff work alongside Averett University professors and students to develop class curriculums and coordinate class schedules.
Each semester, Parks and Recreation staff meet with members of each neighborhood to help design and determine the needs of their individual program. Averett University students are involved in the process by meeting with residents throughout the semester to tweak and change the program along the way to meet their needs. Students and their academic advisors guide and change the delivery of their curriculum and requirements based on what they see in the community. Residents are involved in tailoring their neighborhood’s program to their unique goals and needs.
In its first year, the Averett University students provided 12 weeks of fitness and nutrition classes in three neighborhoods, with more than 225 adults and 350 children participating and logging 300,000 steps. The 160-plus hours of classes equal more than $5,000 of in-kind services.
Community Health Worker Initiative
Danville’s rates of chronic disease and obesity are higher than the state and national averages. The region also suffers from high rates of poverty, with nearly 40 percent of children living in poverty.
The Community Health Worker (CHW) project was established to help improve population health by bringing awareness to the health disparities and social determinants that the region is facing. The primary goal of the CHW project is to decrease avoidable emergency department use by people who are frequent emergency department users and have no recorded affiliation with a medical home.
CHWs provide one-on-one care coordination assistance to individuals that are at risk or potentially becoming at risk of being non-compliant with their chronic illnesses. They educate and encourage health and wellness to these individuals by establishing goals during their time in the program.
The workers are community members who are culturally competent and often share ethnicity, language, socioeconomic status, and life experiences with the members they serve. They reach community residents where they live, eat, play, work, worship, and receive care.
CHWs meet with their clients during home visits over a period of up to 90 day, focusing on medical and social-support service delivery, with the ultimate goal of promoting self-management and transitioning the client to a medical home.
428 individuals have graduated from the program and they have made 326 connections to a primary care physician.