Healthy people in healthy communities. That’s the vision of the Health Forward Foundation.
Earlier this year we announced that we changed the name of our Healthy Lifestyles funding to Healthy Communities to better reflect our commitment to this vision.
For more than 10 years now, Health Forward has funded, what, until recently, was known as Healthy Lifestyles grants. In fact, we’ve invested more than $28 million into our service area to increase access to healthy food, increase safe places in which to be physically active and to reduce exposure to tobacco among the uninsured and underserved.
In our early years of funding, Health Forward only invested these funds into individual organizations to educate and provide opportunities for individuals to live healthier lifestyles.
But achieving a vision of healthy people requires building healthy environments through policy change. It requires neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces to be structured in a way that helps them access healthy foods, that easily incorporates physical activity in their daily routines and that is free of tobacco.
In the early 2000s, groups such as the Prevention Institute began to reframe the issue of food and activity as one of governmental and corporate accountability, not just personal choice. Efforts began nationally to see how agriculture, land use, transportation, economic development, education, preventing violence, health and food assistance influence food and activity environments and reduce inequalities in health.
As the movement of healthy eating, active living and tobacco prevention has grown, so has Health Forward. We realized that creating healthy environments cannot be done by any one organization or field. It requires coordinated and comprehensive efforts by multiple organizations, leaders, fields and sectors.
So a couple of years ago Health Forward changed the strategy of its Healthy Lifestyles funding to focus on projects that work toward creating community environments that encourage healthy choices, so that all individuals in the community may benefit.
After reflection, the Healthy Lifestyles name didn’t seem to fit with the intent of our funding, so we changed it.
While the name has changed, our goal has not. We continue to look forward to support cities and municipalities in their effort to improve the built environment, to support schools in their efforts in creating and implementing wellness policies that encourage healthy eating and active living with their students and families, to work with agencies who are reducing exposure of tobacco products to our youth.
There are so many wonderful projects that we’ve been proud to support. But there are still systematic challenges in our community that create barriers to access, particularly for low-income people, people of color and under-resourced communities. These challenges require mobilization of people most affected and multi-sector partnerships and advocacy.
Before us today is a tremendous opportunity for diverse sectors to forge effective partnerships that bring together their varied yet intersecting interests. Ultimately, it is the convergence of efforts, interests and partnerships that will create and sustain the momentum necessary to achieve the larger vision of community health.
Health Forward looks forward to being a partner with you in these opportunities. Please download our 2015 Healthy Communities RFP and register to attend our upcoming Healthy Communities Forum and Pre-Proposal Conference on Oct. 31, 2014.