People all over the country are working on community efforts to improve health equity. In the process of seeking nominations for the annual Health Equity Award we provide in collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (learn more about this year’s winner, here), we found many other great examples of grass roots activities to help people live healthier lives. Here are a few examples of such work:
Nanci Jenkins, a dietician with the Bonner County Coalition for Health in rural northern Idaho, is helping to implement a program called Community Partnerships for Healthy Mothers and Children, connecting mothers to healthy food and other resources and rallying the community to fight cancer and foster an environment more conducive to healthy behavior.
A state representative teamed up with a wellness program director to improve health in Erie County, NY, which had scored poorly on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s county health rankings. In response, Michael Kearns and Phil Haberstro worked with local schools to provide mental health services and informational programs to encourage healthy behavior. The two also worked to make health screenings available in the community and create better access to healthy food.
Another example of work to create health equity is a project by two social entrepreneurs in one of the poorest parts of New York, rural Sullivan County, who founded ENGN (engine) Civic Creative Center “to address the systemic nature in which people are emotionally and economically disconnected from one another and from their own innate strength.” Isaac Green Diebboll and Thomas John Bosket felt that an underlying factor causing poverty and poor health was the disconnect among individuals and set out to create an intergenerational program to build relationships through youth-focused sustainability projects.
A graduate student, Marisa Westbrook, and professor, Tony Robinson, at the University of Colorado at Denver conducted a study of “anti-homeless” laws in the Denver area and showed that such laws “measurably harm the quality of life of Denver’s most vulnerable residents and are unhealthy by design.” Westbrook and Robinson are working with local nonprofits to reverse these laws and find better solutions to addressing homelessness.
When she witnessed first-hand how poorly people with health problems were treated by the current health system in Kershaw County, South Carolina, Susan Witkowski founded the Community Medical Clinic to provide free and low-cost care to residents and promote health countywide. Susan helped create a school-based health center at the local middle and high school and has convened seminars, a health improvement plan and other community discussions to improve the health of Kershaw County.