It’s been a busy year for Health Forward and our grantees. Before we bid farewell to an eventful year, our Health Forward associates take a look back at significant events and projects that helped make 2012 a productive year. On day four of our year in review, Health Forward Program Officer Brenda Calvin asks: why should we care about creating and sustaining healthy community environments for everyone?
While shopping one day at Walgreens, Melissa Robinson, Executive Director of the Black Health Care Coalition, noticed a sign in the candy aisle that read “WE ACCEPT SNAP” (the Missouri Foodstamp – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).
Melissa had recently attended a training sponsored by the Health Care Foundation that stressed the importance of policy changes to support healthy eating and active living. Inspired, Melissa approached the store manager asking that the signs be placed by healthier food options available in the store.
While her first answer was a no, she persisted, inspired by the adage that “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Not only did management eventually agree to move the signs, they also worked with Melissa to bring in healthier food options to all of their urban core stores in Kansas City.
This story of one person, working in her community to improve the health of the environment around her is an example of what Health Forward is striving for through its funding of Healthy Lifestyles. In 2012, Health Forward funded $2.6 million in grants to support community partnerships that aim to increase opportunities for physical activity and improve access to affordable, healthy foods for children and families.
We know that a person’s health and ability to thrive are by-products of their environment. So what is a healthy community environment? Think of your physical environment – your streets, sidewalks, buildings, parks, workplaces, school settings and social environments. A healthy community environment empowers individuals to take more responsibility for their own health by making it easier for them to make healthy choices.
Why should you be concerned about having a health community environment? Because unhealthy environments lead to increased chronic disease and subsequently increased public and private health care costs.
As you consider making your New Years resolutions, how about resolving to improve the health of your community? It is something we ALL should thrive for because it will take a shared vision and a comprehensive effort. It will require a commitment to reach beyond our normal circles. It will require collaborations from multiple sectors that include the voices of those most affected by compromised health conditions, healthcare, businesses, nonprofits, community stakeholders, etc. It will require us to support programs and initiatives that offer access to improved nutrition, increased physical activity and tobacco prevention.
According to the World Health Organization, “health is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” As I look back on 2012, what I will remember are the efforts made locally to achieve complete physical, mental and social wellbeing. I’ll remember Melissa Robinson. I’ll remember the leaders at Walgreen’s. And as I look ahead, l wonder – what more can we each do to improve the health of our communities?